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- BT Plus
- Tried & Tested
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- Tried & Tested
My first memory of the 747SP was the QF ones, because their relative STOL capabilities at the time compared to other wide bodies mean they were the only aircraft that could fly internationally from WLG to Australia given its short runway (which was unsuitable for full sized 747s or DC10s). Previously only NZ DC8s had flown the route, and at the time QF had an all 747 fleet from 1979 (as it was only an international airline, not domestic). QF used to wet lease NZ DC8s, but started operating SYD, MEL and BNE-WLG with the SP, with three classes of service on the short hop. I got a tour as a child of the plane because an uncle worked at WLG airport, and of course it was the largest airliner I had ever been in.
Within a year, NZ had dropped flying DC8s altogether, so QF had the monopoly on the route, albeit with services SYD-WLG around 4x a week, and MEL and BNE weekly except on a seasonal basis. Of course when QF got its first 767-200ERs in 1986, it quickly pulled the 747SP from WLG and NZ got its first 767-200ERs shortly thereafter ending the era of 747 services to WLG (and the era of international first class travel from the city, as the DC8s had first and economy, but the 767s for both carriers had business and economy).
SAA did operate the 747SP up to at least the early part of the last decade. I remember flying in a near empty plane Joburg to Windhoek in 2001 where I sat in what was an old business class seat although technically it was economy and I think most if not all of the passenger load were in this cabin. Must have cost the airline a fortune to run that flight.
I also recall flying on the Qantas 747SP in the eighties and early nineties into Wellington where on any of the many very windy days it was not unusual to need two goes to get the SP on the ground. They had 2 in service from 1980 up to 2004, much longer than I would have thought. I was also very surprised to read that there are still 24 SP’s in existence with 12 still in active service. Most of these are in service with governments in the Golf area. One is in service with NASA and one with Pratt and Whitney. It seems that one may be still in acive service with Air China.