747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Tue Nov 09, 1999 1:49 pm

I have noticed recently that many airlines such as United are disposing of their 747-SP fleets. This to me seems a little strange, they are actually not that old with most being built in the early 80's, far younger than the 747-200 which is still being used widely.

I know the SP has bad fuel efficiency but is it that bad!, i would of thought the 747-SP would be a good aircraft for start-up operaters who would like to fly ultra-long range ops which the 747-200 can not do, like Sydney-LAX and Sydney-LON one stop.

I have also noticed that the 747-SP shares the same engines as the L-1011 tristar. Do they share any other common parts. Could a start-up operater use both these aircraft and share many of the spares.

Does anyone have any other comments about the 747-SP, i would like to hear it very much
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RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Tue Nov 09, 1999 2:03 pm

the 747-SP was built for Pan Am by request, and thats how United ended up with them, although there were other customers. Its main feature was its range, and for the longest time it held that as its strong point, then the 747-400 came along and took it away. They didnt build very many of them. Current aircraft can do what it did in 2 engines, and with greater capacity. The engines CAN be the same RB211's similar to the L-1011, but I believe that was an option. The plane simply isnt as efficient enough as todays planes, even in the hands of a start up. Some airlines still use it for high density longer range routes, but are quickly being replaced by 767's 777's A330, and such.

Hope that helps!  


767 And A330

Tue Nov 09, 1999 2:09 pm

surely the 767 and A330 can not serve the same range as the 747-SP. Startups cant afford the 747-400 so the 747-SP seems the way to go. Is the 747-SP exactly the same as other 747's on the inside, in terms of seat pitch, do any have ptvs in economy, or even business?
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RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Tue Nov 09, 1999 6:41 pm

The SP is a very popular business jet. About 1/4 surviving SP's were converted for corporate use. The 200B has approximately the same range as the SP thereby negating it's need.

45 were manufactured. Last delivered in 87.

United flies no more SP's.

RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Tue Nov 09, 1999 9:06 pm

I have also picked up this pattern amongst airlines. Here in south africa, our national carrier has retired ( from scheduled service)all of its 3 or 4 747 SP's within less than a year. This was triggered when one of their SP's experienced a #3 'disintegration' after take off from Maputo. One thing I happened to notice, which I seek more info on, is the fact that these 747 SP's were always performing short take offs... not a normal flex take off. Although Johannesburg International falls into the hot and high cat., other 747's performed normal take-offs. Was the short take off a feature of the SP?

It is also interesting to note that the engines powering 747SP's within our carriers fleet are the same as those found on 747-200 and 300 Super B's within the fleet ( JT9D...)

Any comments
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RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Tue Nov 09, 1999 11:54 pm

The SP has the identical powerplants of the -200B but is a lighter aircraft (obviously, being considerably shorter). Anyone who says it has the same range as the -200B is wrong. There are other differences, such as single-slot flaps (and therefore the trailing edge has no canoes for the flap tracks) and because the fuselage is shorter, the tail needed to be taller and the rudder is much more powerful, this is because the short fuselage has a lesser moment arm.

It has a very short take-off run and higher cruising altitude (41,000 ft is strandard) than normal 747s because of the abnormally high power-to-weight ratio. I saw a 747SP take off at Sydney using less than half the runway. I was in the right-hand seat of a commuter flight and the captain was stunned. I think seeing this really made him want to get onto jets as we watched it lift off right in front of us (we sitting at the intersection waiting to taxi over to the terminal as it passed us, rotating).
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Wed Nov 10, 1999 3:30 am

Simply put, seat mile costs. SP's are higher than other long range options like the 747-400.

RE: Costs

Wed Nov 10, 1999 8:13 am

well the seat/mile costs maybe higher than a 747-400 but the 747-400 costs 150,000,000 where as the SP costs under 5 million. You could nearly buy the entire SP worldwide fleet for 150 million.

Sp-takeoff Length

Wed Nov 10, 1999 8:21 am

i have learnt from this discussion that the SP can takeoff with smaller runways. Could say takeoff from Canberra? or is this too small?
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SP Aquisition Costs

Wed Nov 10, 1999 1:04 pm

A 747SP in good shape (isn't that an oxymoron!) will run you about 15 million USD...only a mere 10 million on top of yours.


RE: SP Aquisition Costs

Wed Nov 10, 1999 2:39 pm

Sorry FLY777UAL i guess i was a little out of the mark, woops, still slightly less than 150,000,000 in fact ten times less. Now are the sp's operating economics ten time worse than the 747-400, i don't think so! Although i hear Qantas has got a 744 going cheap, slightly damaged, includes a bag of golf sticks though!
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RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Wed Nov 10, 1999 6:05 pm

Sp-Deluxe - Qantas SP's were used for a while to operate into Wellington, N.Z, a short runway with often difficult wind conditions. They have now been replaced with B767s and B737s. As for Canberra, I remember a Qantas B747-338 diverting in there in about 1990 due to poor weather in Sydney and Melbourne. The runway was no problem, it was finding steps that could reach the door that had 'em sweating!
I also notice that Air Namibia has a leased (SAA) SP back on line pending delivery of a new B747-400M.
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747-SP, The Complete Picture

Fri Nov 12, 1999 12:30 am

I see this has become a lively discussion, with many good points. Time to consolidate
information. The SP was built in exactly 45 examples and could possibly be
considered avant-garde for its time. An SAA delivery flight from Renton to
Johanesburg (or something like that) was non-stop and had 2 hours of fuel left
though the flight had some fifty people and a load of spares on it. QANTAS and
saudIA did buy the RB211 engine but everyone else had plain old JT9Ds. The A340 and 747-400 have greater range yet, and many customers have withdrawn the SP
from service. However, it's good when airlines renew their fleets and second-hand
SPs have gotten good customers. Qantas who needs long-range aircraft still has
its SPs. Nasa will use one as flying telescope lab. Several are (luxurious?) private
jets, one used by the sultan cof Brunei. I guess he knew cquality when he saw it.
39 SPs still exist, 5 were broken up at Ardmore (all were United and this includes
the first one) and one SAA one was DBR just over a year ago.
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RE: 747-SP, Why Are They Going?

Sat Nov 13, 1999 3:08 am

I flew a Pan Am SP from JFK to NRT quite a few years ago, just before United took over the Pan Am Pacific Division. The plane was largely empty, which was/is unusual on that route. It was a fast climb out of JFK to what seemed like a higher than average cruising altitude. I thought it even felt stubbier on the interior.