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wayne albertson articles

B-747SP – SOFIA

I received a notification from Simply Flying (newsletter subscription) about how many Boeing 747 variants have been made.

I have been intrigued by the B747SP (Special Performance) variant since I first saw one of Air China’s taxiing on the tarmac in Toronto. I was new to the aviation world and still amazed at being so close to aircraft and this was different. Back then, we did not have the resources for research that we do today so being reminded of this unique aircraft sent me digging.

I soon came upon an aircraft that certainly deserves the ‘Special Performance’ identity.

Boeing 747SP MSN 21441 began its life cycle 42 years ago as Pan Am Registration N536PA named ‘Clipper Lindbergh’. Boeing developed this variant at the request of Pan Am because it needed an aircraft capable of flying non-stop between New York and Tehran, the longest route in the world at the time.

After twenty years of passenger service (Pan Am and United Airlines) is was acquired by NASA and eventually converted for ‘Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy’ (SOFIA).

Today it is described as ‘an airborne observatory, a flying telescope’ used for space exploration.

For more information, click the image below a YouTube video and visit the following links:

Wikipedia article on SOFIA

Chronological order of events from 747SP.com

 tmb sofia

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