The iconic long-range wide-body quad-engine Boeing 747 wide-body aircraft entered service over 50 years ago. First introduced to the global aviation market in 1966, the world’s first 747, the -100 variant, airliner took off for the first passenger service operating for Pan Am in 1970. In total, Boeing made 168 747-100 variant jets, 167 out of which were delivered to customer airlines, while a single jet, the prototype, was kept by the manufacturer, its books show. The initial variant of the Queen of the Skies was followed by the -200, -300, -400, and -8 Intercontinental. Boeing has made a total of 225 planes of the -200 variant, 85 of the -300 variant, and 627 of the -400 variant.
But do you know which variant of the old and beloved 747s can still be seen soaring the skies?
The oldest jumbo jet of a commercial airline
The oldest Queen of the Skies still used for passenger operations by a commercial airline is a 32 years old Boeing 747-400, which currently belongs to Mahan Airlines fleet, according to the Planespotters.com data. Originally, the wide-body aircraft was ordered by the American air carrier United Airlines. The manufacturer delivered the jet, then registered as N172UA, to the airline in August 1989, where the plane served on long-haul commercial operations until October 2006.
After flying for the major American airline for 17 years, the jumbo was taken over by the flag carrier of Armenia Blue Sky Airlines and was given a new registration number G-CEFD. Within the month, the plane was re-registered as EK-74763 and started operating for the Tehran-based privately-owned air carrier Mahan Airlines. The Armenian owner finally sold the aircraft to Mahan Air in February 2009. The jet was re-registered for the fourth time, receiving a new registration number EP-MNB.
While owned by Mahan Airlines, the Boeing 747 was once put in long-term storage and ceased operations for 9 years since 2010, due to the sanctions implemented by the United States, but was returned to active operations in September 2019. The aircraft started flying regular domestic routes across Iran, including services between Tehran Mehrabad to Mashhad, Baghdad, and Kish.
However, it seems that the Iranian airline eyes on getting rid of the historical aircraft. If the information gets confirmed, the EP-MNB might soon receive another new registration of 9G- belonging to the African airline Smile Air. According to Planespotters.com, the jumbo jet is marked as already ordered but “not taken up”, suggesting that the aircraft may be handed over to the new owner in the near future.
The oldest Queen of the Skies in non-commercial passenger operations
Although Mahan Airlines still flies the oldest Boeing 747 dedicated for commercial passenger operations, there are more air carriers that operate the jet type for different purposes. Iranian Air Force and United States Air Force are the two owners of the group of the oldest Queen of the Skies that still serves the skies.
For instance, the Iranian Air Force still operates a 50.8-year-old Boeing 747-100, which is considered the oldest jumbo jet used for non-commercial passenger operations. The oldie, carrying the N93113 registration at the time, used to fly the major American air carrier Trans World Airlines’ routes since October 1970. Then, in March 1975, it was converted into a freighter and was taken over by the Iranian Air Force two months later. Ever since 1975, the jumbo jet has served the new owner’s operations.
The United States Air Force also has four of the oldest Boeing 747s in service. All four Queens of the Skies are the -200 variant and their ages vary from 48.1 years in service to 46.2 years in service. The government of the United States has been the only owner of the four planes.
The 48.1 years-old jumbo jet, registered as 73-1676, has been flying governmental flights since July 1973, according to Planespotters.net. The 47.8-year-old 73-1677 joined the fleet in October the same year. The government-owned 74-0787, which currently counts more than 47 years in active operations, was delivered to the states in October 1974. The youngest of the four, the 46.2-year-old 75-0125, entered service in August 1975.