Hi fellow forum members. As stated, I will be posting once a week for five weeks with each subsequent era article. This is the third article of five. Stay tuned each week for the rest of the story! I have cleared these articles with the moderators, and have created a separate thread which introduced the topic here:viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1419061
For those of you who are just joining, you may want to begin with the first two articles, which can be found here:viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1419683viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1420157 Intro: The Need for Direct Long-Range Travel Spurns the 747-SP
The prior era for the 747, as stated, was a mixed affair. Such high hopes and plans in the mid to late 1960s did not exactly translate into the supersonic future everyone had imagined. Instead, the 747-100 would become the star amidst the oil embargo making it an unfavorable option, albeit special to Pan Am. Remember that Pan was the launch customer, so now that six or so years had passed, their needs were starting to change as an airline. No longer did they need sheer size, but rather they needed a mid-size wide-body jet, to the likings of a DC-10 or L-1011. Those were both popular tri-jet planes which were extremely innovative for their time. Boeing had been focusing on the evolution of the 747-100 with models like the 747-100B, and 747-SR. The B would be heavier than the original 747-100, and offered convertible and freighter variants. The SR would show up a little later as the short-range version with smaller fuel tanks and different brakes for more frequent landings. Pan Am would of course stick primarily with the original 747-100. That was until traveling further on a single stretch started to become a necessity to remain competitive. Pan Am envisioned a plane that could carry a full payload non-stop between New York and Tehran, its longest route at the time. This plane was also highly requested by Iran Air as they serviced the route back from Tehran to New York until Pan Am offered it later in 1976. As a result, the planning process was a joint-effort and you could say that both airlines were at the table together from the start. On September 10, 1973, the order was placed by Pan Am for ten jets with the option for fifteen more valued at $280,000,000. Enter the 747-SP.
The 747-SP was named SP for Special Performance. There were many monikers that were played around with such as 747-SB for short body. The name 747-SP was chosen however, and was explained as a relation to the long-range performance the plane could handle as a result of many modifications to the original 747 design. This plane would be the longest-range airliner available until the introduction of the 747-400 in 1989, launched with Northwest Airlines. The primary change to the 747-SP was that the fuselage was significantly shortened by 48 feet as compared to the 747-100. On the flip side, the upper deck was designed to have more usable space than on the 747-100. More on this a little later in the article when we get to the 747-SP upper deck. The initial seating chart upon ordering in 1973 showed two options: One for high density with a B-Zone coach, and one for increased revenue potential with a B-Zone first class. Pan Am chose the increased revenue potential. As usual, Pan Am would be first to take delivery, on March 5, 1976. A fun fact is that it was the 2800th Boeing jetliner delivered. Pan Am would also be the first to fly the 747-SP commercially on April 25, 1976 from New York to Tokyo, non-stop, cutting 3.5 hours off the current travel time. From that point on, the 747-SP was a successful product offering for Pan Am, as it would be used from 1976 until 1985 when their pacific routes were sold along with the planes to United Airlines. The 747-SP was also used in the historic flight 50 around the poles as well as other record setting flights at the time. More important than all of these dates and events however was the introduction of a whole new era of interior cabin design.
Pan Am wanted to blend their heritage of clipper ships and exploration, with the elegance of a modern cabin. They did not want it to feel old, but rather stately, as though you were aboard a clipper ship- hence the names. In conjunction with this heritage throw-back came the excitement of the bi-centennial of the independence of the United States: 1976. With the nation’s pride on the forefront of priorities, Pan Am decorators converted the cabins from austerity to patriotism. The design firm of Walter Dorwin Teague Associates was commissioned and came up with the theme: “Universe.” This was to be the subtle symbol of Pan Am through globes, crescents, and sweeping arcs. Along with this new theme would come new seat designs, and new product offerings which would roll out over time. It would also mark the beginning of the first major changes to the Pan Am stewardess uniform since the launch of the 747 colors: galaxy beige, and 747 blue. Stewardesses would now wear light blue or dark navy-blue uniforms with red white and blue neckerchiefs to go along with the exciting bi-centennial themed cabins. I bet by now you are ready to delve into the interior design of this era. I will note that this is the only era where there was enough difference in design between the 747-100 and 747-SP, that I will actually be breaking them out for the first year set of 1976 to 1979.1976-1979 747-SP: Patriotic Colors, Clipper Ships, and Evolved Dining Debut in SP
So, let’s dive right into the highlight cabin of this article. The introduction of the 747-SP with its new cabin design all around. This design had debuted recently on the 707 and 727 cabin refreshes, and was a perfect fit for the new-to-Pan Am 747-SP. The first class section was still in the A-Zone and B-Zone (like the 747-100) however, the right side of the plane along the B-Zone was now used for a large galley, rather than the pass-through galleys in the 747-100. This would provide for a much-improved meal service for the first class passengers. The seat design was updated for the 747-SP, from the layered cushion design which debuted in the 747-100, to a new all-in-one design. This seat design would ultimately become very popular for Pan Am as it would be the basis for their re-introduction of the sleeperette seat in the coming years. More on that later in the article. The material of the seat was still fabric, but it was patterned with large circles within the fabric. Interestingly enough, it was as though there was a shimmer effect to the fabric in which you would see these circles from certain angles and not others. This was most evident in the black and white photos which highlight the circles over the color photos. The sides of the seats were now plastic shells in line with the recent upgrades they made to the 747-100 in 1973. Perhaps the highlight of the new first class cabin was not the new seat design, but rather the radical new color pallet used. The colors were based on the new “Universe” theme of red, blue, yellow, grape (blue with red hues), and rust. The first class cabin would only see the blue and red however, as the seats were arranged in sets of two unlike coach. On the outer rows, the seats were arranged in blue and red sets of two with one of each color. On the row in front of the staircase, the seats were the same color, both blue. The headrest covers were matching in either red or blue, corresponding with the correct seat color. Total seating was for forty-two. The walls were all new on the 747-SP, and featured a phosphorescent pattern called “refractions.” Finally, the nose-cone wall, where jackets were stored, was reimagined to have a fabric wall with the design of a clipper ship and sun. Remember that the galley was the entirety of the right B-Zone first class section, so behind the A-Zone on the right side was a separating curtain to keep the galley out. This galley would work in conjunction with the galley behind the B-Zone, which had an elevator to service the upper deck dining room galley.
As just stated, the upper deck on the 747-SP was a dining room just as it was on the 747-100. The 747-100 had converted the upper deck lounges in 1973 to upper deck dining rooms. While the 747-SP’s upper deck dining room was similar to the 747-100’s, it was definitely different. For starters, the upper deck was much longer on the 747-SP than on the 747-100. Instead of having only three spaced out windows on either side, there were ten on either side. This added a plethora of light to the cabin. It also had indents in the ceiling which would aid in height of the upper deck to make it possible to stand-particularly during the dining service. Most importantly, the 747-SP offered a completely separate aft upper deck galley, hidden behind red curtains. The 747-100 small upper deck did not have this completely separated space, and instead had a visible galley right near the top of the spiral staircase. This evolution would offer a better dining experience for the patrons on board.
Moving on to the design, this upper deck had evolved from the 747-100’s to add the “universe” color pallet. Since orange was technically part of the color pallet, along with the red and blue, the 747-SP dining room was designed with a different layout, while retaining the same general look of the 747-100’s clipper themed dining room. Interestingly enough, the initial seating maps that Pan Am provided via a newsletter, did not match the seating of the 747-SP upper deck upon completion. The layout on the seating chart showed four tables of four, equaling sixteen. The production layout, however, was as follows: With seating for sixteen, (two more seats than 747-100 dining room), the layout was set with two dark blue tufted couches on the aft back wall, each with seating for two. In the center were two sets of four-top tables- each complete with four swivel chairs upholstered in the same 747-100 white leather with varying orange and red fabric inserts. Finally, there were two small tables for two in the forward section of the upper deck which each featured a red tufted fabric bench for two. Just as with the 747-100’s dining room, there was a jump seat located against the wall, right at the top of the staircase, for crew. All the wooden tables in the upper deck dining room had fold-over leaves which folded over when the tables were not in use for dining. This allowed for greater space when sitting in the upper deck lounge and not eating. One other interesting thing to note is that the upper deck dining room on the 747-SP had glass dividers which featured innovative etchings. One placed atop each of the four colored benches on either side of the deck. The dividers behind the red couches had etched clipper ships and squared off sides. The dividers behind the blue couches had etched Pan Am globe lines and angled off sides. There were two of each design. Now, let’s pretend you are full of chateaubriand, and move back down the spiral staircase to the main deck, so we can explore the coach cabin next.
Moving aft of the B-Zone would reveal the coach cabin of the 747-SP. This would be the first Pan Am 747 to gain ten abreast seating in a 3-4-3 setup, rather than the 747-100’s nine abreast seating in a 3-4-2 setup. As stated, the 747-SP coach cabin was going to extend all the way up into the B-Zone and create for much additional seating. However, a revised floor plan showed that the first class section would extend into the B-Zone instead. Configuration changes at the last minute were very common in those days, as there were many facets to completing a large moving target project such as a jumbo jet’s floor plan. The new coach cabin featured all-in-one seats. This was also a departure from the 747-100 as that plane featured layered-cushion seating in coach. The seat also had a protruding headrest- very similar to the initial 1966 mock-up cabins used by Boeing and Pan Am referenced in my pre-production article (article number one). The seat center was tufted, and they were upholstered in fabric. The fabric was thematically red, blue, yellow, grape (blue with red hues), or rust. As I stated, the colors in first class were red and blue from the same pallet. The seats were randomly placed around the cabin, with a somewhat methodical pairing of colors. This was common for airliners to randomize coloring without a set design, as it was a juxtaposition between easy maintenance and enhanced design. The fabric had “moon eclipse” and “sun eclipse” designs sewn into it, but the circles were very small, compared to the large circle designs in the first class section fabric. The headrest covers matched their seat color as with first class. While this coach cabin was designed to get more passengers than the nine abreast setup, it was the front section of the coach cabin which would prove to be the most interesting for Pan Am in the years to come.
What was so interesting about the front section of coach on the 747-SP you ask? Well, this would be the first test-zone for the new clipper class to ultimately come. Clipper class was the equivalent of Pan Am’s business class. During this time, airlines were offering full-fare economy class, and a discounted fare economy class (similar to today’s basic economy equivalent). This test was initially a response to the full-fare economy passengers’ complaints that it was unfair that the discounted fare passengers should receive the same service as full-fare. In response to this, Pan Am started offering the “frequent traveler section” in the forward coach section of the 747-SP (rows fifteen through nineteen) for those full-fare passengers. Within a year or two, Pan Am had evolved this section into clipper class. It was an evolution of the “frequent traveler section” in that in addition to having an empty seat next to you, and priority seating, you would also receive alcoholic beverages and a free headset. Ultimately, clipper class had developed as a response to the market. By late 1978, the 747-SP was running a separate clipper class across the pacific, albeit in the same cabin setup as coach was. The seats and abreast seating were identical to coach, it was just the area of the cabin which was different. Also, the seat backs were folded down on the seats in this section, to separate passengers between seats that were not being used. There was seating for fifty. An interesting thing to note is that in the front rows of coach or clipper class, the meal tray table was inserted into the arms on either side of the seat. There was not one integrated into the arm rest, and there was no seat in front. Not exactly convenient if you have to use the lavatory. Now that we have exhausted the 747-SP, why don’t we look at the 747-100s of the same era: An aging giant that needed to be refreshed.1976-1979 747-100: A Parallel Refresh for an Aging Giant
While the new kid at school was the 747-SP and its numerous records set, the aging giant, the 747-100, was still servicing a majority of Pan Am’s routes at the time. Starting in the first class cabin, the location had changed slightly. It was previously the A-Zone and either front side of the B-Zone. Now, it was the A-Zone and only two rows of seats on the front left of the B-Zone. There was seating for thirty. Unlike the 747-SP, the 747-100 did not lose the entire right side of the B-Zone to a galley, but this was less important as the B-Zone was not really for first class anyway. The B-Zone was being reserved for the new clipper class test at the time. There was, however, a new galley installed in the front right of the B-Zone to assist with the new clipper class test section. The seat design had not changed from the launch design update of 1973. While the 747-SP would get the new all-in-one seat design, the 747-100 still featured the same general layered cushion seat from the 1970 launch, with the updated plastic shells from 1973. This time however, the seating was changed from all 747 blue, to the new bi-centennial colors of dark blue and red. Just as with the 747-SP, the 747-100 had the outer rows setup in sets of two with one red seat and one blue seat in the pair. The center seats forward of the spiral staircase were the same color fabric, in blue. The headrest covers were a matching red or blue depending on the seat. As with the 747-SP, the nose cone closet would now feature a prominent clipper ship and sun, and the carpet, including on the staircase, would be red.
Moving upstairs revealed the upper deck dining room. We discussed the upper deck dining room in detail for the 747-100 in the launch article as it was the first update to the upper deck done in 1973. The seating was different than the 747-SP, and offered only fourteen seats as opposed to the 747-SPs sixteen seats, given the smaller upper deck size. Since nothing was changed from the previous era, I will skip going into detail. I encourage you to go back and read the second article about the launch era of 1970-1976 for more detail and photos about the 747-100 upper deck dining room. Now let’s go back downstairs to the ever-changing B-Zone.
The B-Zone, while originally first class, then a dining room/lounge, would now become the new test area for the frequent traveler section/clipper class (Pan Am’s business class). Pan Am would install brand new (different design) ten abreast seats in the B-Zone only. This was because they had a blank slate to work with in the B-Zone after taking out the old dining room/lounge, whereas the rest of the coach zones (C/D/E-Zones) were still filled with seats. They would take this front section of coach (B-Zone), and coin it as the frequent traveler section with the added benefit of spaced out seating when available. The seats initially featured red or grape seat fabric with matching headrest covers- the same fabric that had debuted recently in the new 747-SP, with small circular patterns. There was no movie in this section, as there was previously no projector when it was a dining room/lounge. They marketed this area as a quiet zone for workers initially. The setup seemed strange as it was one additional seat in each row as compared to the rest of coach at the time- but what is important to remember is that this section almost always operated with eight abreast, utilizing the fold down center backrests of the two outer rows. Therefore, it was technically more spaced out than the rear coach cabin, even though the rear coach cabin initially had fewer seats abreast. Pan Am was also in the process of converting its rear coach cabin (C/D/E-Zones) to 10 abreast, over the next few years, for additional revenue. It would only be a short time that the B-zone and C/D/E-Zones were inconsistent in their setups.
By the time the rest of coach was ten abreast in 1978, this frequent traveler B-Zone section had evolved to be coined: clipper class. The same situation as with the 747-SP, there was now a test in place with an official name, and official perks such as a headset and alcoholic beverages. When the clipper class name had been coined in 1978, the fabric was unchanged, but the headrest cover became a contrasting white, with clipper class written in black vertically. Another thing to note is that when the clipper class name was coined, the test gained an additional row of four seats in the center rear where there were previously two closets. There was initially seating for forty-two. Then, it became forty-six. Not until 1980 would clipper class see its official introduction- with a whole new consistent look and setup, as this was just an ongoing test.
Moving back past the B-Zone revealed the remaining coach cabin (C/D/E-Zones). During this era, the coach cabin seating layout was initially 3-4-2, and then changed to 3-4-3 to match the ten abreast clipper class test in the B-Zone (and of course, the new 747-SP). The color scheme of red, blue, grape, yellow and rust was initially applied to the 3-4-2 coach cabin in 1976, to match the current theme. All of the seats were removed and reupholstered. Just as with the B-Zone clipper class test, the fabric was the same as the 747-SP’s, with small circular patterns within. Also, the headrest covers matched the seat they were on. The fabric seat combinations were red and yellow for the C-Zone, blue and rust for the D-Zone, and red and rust for the E-Zone. As stated, the B-Zone frequent traveler section had fabric in grape and red. The transition to ten abreast (3-4-3) occurred in 1978, and the seat design (while similar to the launch era seat), was the seat featured in the B-Zone clipper class test that was also recently installed. It was slightly slimmer than the launch seat, with different, single armrests (to accommodate the additional seat across). Just as before, these new ten abreast coach seats featured the same fabric design and coloring.
This period of years within this era was a bit hectic with the minute differences among the cabins, but Pan Am did a stellar job of using their resources to align the old 747-100s to the new 747-SPs in 1976. Even though seats were different designs, upper decks varied in layout slightly, and coach cabins initially had different abreast layouts, the core bi-centennial theme was apparent throughout the 747 fleet. The designers and engineers had completed a difficult task of unifying the two planes during a tumultuous time for the airline. This would be the last time the layouts were like this, as the next period would bring a slew of changes to both birds; A period which was finally aligned again between the two types of 747s. 1979-1984: Sleeperettes, the Official Clipper Class, and Upper Deck Seating
While Pan Am was struggling to beat the oil embargo effects of the 1970s, 1979 would prove to be a huge year for them as far as interior cabins went. It would also be the year that they acquired National Airlines- another mixed bag thanks to deregulation and its fallout. While the pilots were learning techniques to save every last drop of fuel, the interior designers and engineers were hard at work on trying to stay competitive by re-capturing the high-end market. With TWA’s plans to introduce their new sleeper seats on their 747 fleet, enter the re-introduction of the Pan Am sleeperette seat. The sleeperette seat was introduced initially by Pan Am in 1949. These seats adorned the then state of the art Boeing 377 stratocruiser. The new sleeperette seat debuted nearly thirty years later in 1979. They came first in the 747-SPs, and then across the whole fleet of 747-100s within the next year, and were an extension of the already used 1976 747-SP first class seat. Now that we’ve discussed the history and drive behind the sleeperette seats, let’s see how they incorporated into the new cabins.
Beginning with the first class cabin; this cabin underwent the most change. It was now located in the A-Zone, B-Zone and upper deck on the 747-SP and in the A-Zone and upper deck of the 747-100 (we will discuss the 747-100 next as it was slightly later). That’s right, the first class cabin had moved upstairs in lieu of the dining room, in addition to being on the main floor. There was initially logic behind this- primarily that the new seating layout afforded the option to create a joint banquet table at your seat, and to allow room to have you served from the front of your seat rather than from the side, so you would not be losing the dining experience. On the flip side, the upper deck seating would help to balance the lost seats from the main deck conversion as the sleeperettes would need greater space between rows. As for the first class seat design, the all-in-one seat from the 1976 747-SP debut would gain a mechanical leg extension piece, and gain increased recline abilities to sixty degrees. The seats were spaced out further from forty-two inches to sixty-two inches apart (fifty-five inches apart on the upper deck), to allow for the uninterrupted use of the sleeper design between rows. When not in sleeper form, as stated, there was so much room between the seats that the new dining services could serve from in front of your seat rather than next to it. Well- that was with the initial 747-SP conversion.
Once the 747-100 was converted a year later, the 747-SP had gained an additional row of three in the nose cone, which caused the seats to be less spaced out. The initial more spaced out 747-SP design never made it into the 747-100. The 747-100 featured thirty-one seats, while the 747-SP featured forty-seven seats (originally forty-two seats). While the 747-SP cabin did not look much different other than the spacing out of the seats and adding the leg rests, the 747-100 cabin had gained a whole new seat look as compared to the previous layered-cushion design. The cabin seating design was now consistent among the two types of 747s Pan Am operated. The fabric, pattern, and coloring were the same as they were in the 747-SP launch: cloth with circle patterns in dark blue or red. Outer rows in sets of two with one red and one blue seat. Inner row in front of the staircase in the same color set of red (747-100) or blue (747-SP). Headrest covers remained matching. The carpet was still red, and there was a central buffet bar table with wooden surround. Finally, the wall panels on the 747-100 were updated to have the 747-SP themed design to them. One other thing to note is that the dining service had changed. Instead of serving from in front of the seat at a joint table, they returned to the traditional cart service from the side of the seat. Now that we discussed the design and main deck, let’s go upstairs.
As stated, the upper deck was converted to have first class seating along with the conversion to sleeperette seating in first class on the main level. Since Pan Am would be losing seats to the new layout, moving additional seats upstairs would aid in balancing out the revenue for the flights. There were no movies on the upper deck, and it was sold as a quiet zone. One difference to note about the upper decks between the 747-SP and the 747-100, was that the 747-SP had more seats on the upper deck than the 747-100 did. If you recall, the 747-SP had a much larger upper deck than the 747-100, and this would prove to make room for more seating upstairs than its bigger, older brother could hold. Initially, in 1979, when the 747-SP upper deck was first converted (slightly before the 747-100), the 747-SP had fourteen seats on the upper deck (four rows of two on the right, and three rows of two on the left). By the time all of the 747-100s had been converted (about a year later), the 747-SP had gained two additional upper deck sleeperette seats. There was now an additional row of two seats upstairs on the left side (bringing the 747-SP upper deck seating total to sixteen). When the 747-100 was converted, the upper deck had seating for ten: Two rows of two on the right side, and three rows of two on the left side. The cumbersome galley remained on the front right of the 747-100’s upper deck, limiting space for seating. Now that we’ve discussed the upper deck of this era, let’s move back downstairs to the new official clipper class.
The clipper class tests on the 747-SP across the Pacific, and the 747-100 across the Atlantic were proving to be very lucrative for Pan Am. Passengers were willing to pay slightly more than coach, for a slightly better experience, and the incremental increase in per-passenger revenue was beneficial for Pan Am during these times of loss. So, in 1980, to remain competitive with TWA, who was now officially offering ambassador class- their name for business class, Pan Am decided to take the market by storm and change out its ten abreast forward coach sections (technically clipper class at the time, but in testing), with eight abreast layouts that featured not only new seat designs, but new cabin experiences as well. On the 747-100, it would be located in the B-Zone behind first class. On the 747-SP, it would be located aft of the B-Zone, and would make up a majority of the cabin, as Pan Am had discovered through its test, that the Asian market was willing to spend extra for the better seating. Initially, the 747-100 featured thirty-two of the new clipper class seats. Within a few years, the seat count had increased to forty-two. On the 747-SP, the seat count remained fifty-six until it was traded to United. The seats were an all-in-one design and were a gray-blue color. They were upholstered in cloth fabric, and the fabric had small darker blue circles within the cushion inserts to contrast and create a polka-dot like design. The headrest covers were initially white with a blue clipper class logo horizontally across, however over time they switched to match the color and fabric pattern of the seat. Along with the new seating design, came a new cabin experience. As with the test, there were no movies in clipper class to keep from distracting business passengers. There were also alcoholic drinks served complimentary, and there were perks such as priority boarding, and down the road, even lounges and reward programs. This was truly the bread-and-butter of Pan Am as they continued to struggle and look for new competitive avenues as the market kept up with their every move. For example, just as Pan Am converted to eight abreast, so did TWA. And TWA, just as with their introduction of a sleeper seat, aggressively advertised their ambassador class changes as well- putting Pan Am at a disadvantage.
Pan Am would now experiment with calling the coach cabin, simply: cabin class. The seats had been updated in the 747-100 in 1978 to be ten abreast as stated. By 1980, they were updated one more time to be the same seats as in the 747-SP: An all-in-one design, in red, dark blue or orange with a tufted seat back and protruding headrest. The headrest covers were matching still as well. The seat backs no longer folded down as with the earlier iteration of these seats (in the 747-SP). The 747-100 featured a much larger cabin class section than the 747-SP, because as stated, the 747-SP had a much larger clipper class section- as the 747-SP routes called for more higher paying passengers. The 747-100 had three hundred twenty-nine seats. The 747-SP initially had one hundred forty seats, but by the end of its life with Pan Am, had gained ten more seats, bringing the seat total to one hundred fifty. Along with the transition of the coach cabin came a lot of changes regarding weight. For example, the floor panels were replaced with light-weight alternatives. Their idea was that every drop of fuel counted, and every pound required more fuel, hence the cutdown on weight. For the first time, Pan Am officially had three different cabin classes that were nearly unified between the two types of 747s, all catering to a different kind of customer for the times to come. Now that we have completely covered the bi-centennial era of 1976-1984, and are finishing out the third article in a series of five, stay tuned for the next article which delves into the refresh era of 1984-1987.