Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy International Airport

1–3 May 1976

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747SP-21 N533PA, s/n 21025, renamed Clipper New Horizons in 1977, with the “Flight 50” insignia. (CNN.com)

1–3 May 1976: Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 747SP–21 Clipper Liberty Bell, N533PA, departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on a record-setting around the world flight. Under the command of Captain Walter H. Mullikan, the airline’s chief pilot, the flight crew included co-pilots Albert A. Frink, Lyman G. Watt, and flight engineers Frank Cassaniti and Edwards Shields. The airliner carried 98 passengers. The flight set a new speed record for a flight around the world, eastbound, and three speed records for commercial airline routes.

Clipper Liberty Bell flew eastward from New York JFK to Indira Ghandi International Airport (DEL), New Delhi, India, a distance of 8,081 miles (13,005.1 kilometers), at an average speed of 869.63 kilometers per hour (540.363 miles per hour).¹ After servicing the 747, it continued on its journey. The next destination was Tokyo International Airport (HND), Tokyo, Japan. This stage covered 7,539 miles (12,132.8 kilometers). The airliner’s average speed was 421.20 kilometers per hour (261.722 miles per hour).² Striking Pan Am workers at Tokyo delayed preparing the airliner for the next leg of the journey. After refueling, the Pan American flight continued on to its starting point, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, New York. This final leg was 7,517 miles (12,097.4 kilometers). The average speed was 912.50 kilometers per hour (567.001 miles per hour).³

The total duration of the flight was 46 hours, 1 second. The actual flight time was 39 hours, 25 minutes, 53 seconds. Total distance flown was 23,137 miles (37,235.4 kilometers). The average speed for the entire flight was 809.24 kilometers per hour (502.838 miles per hour).⁴

Clipper Liberty Bell had been christened in a ceremony at Indianapolis on 30 April 1976 by Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States of America.

In 1977, Captain Mullikin flew the same 747SP on another circumnavigation, 29–31 October 1977, but this time it crossed both the North and South Poles. Renamed Clipper New Horizons, 21025 set 7 world records on that flight, with a total flight time of 54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. This trip was called “Flight 50.”

The Boeing 747SP (“Special Performance”) is a very long range variant of the 747–100 series airliners. The airplane is 48 feet, 5 inches (14.757 meters) shorter than the –100, the vertical fin is 5 feet (1.5 meters) taller and the span of horizontal stabilizer has been  increased. The weight savings allows it to carry more fuel for longer flights, and it is also faster. The maximum number of passengers that could be carried was 400, with a maximum of 45 on the upper deck. Boeing built 45 747SPs.

The 747SP is 184 feet, 9 inches (56.312 meters) long, with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters). It has an overall height of 65 feet, 1 inch, at maximum gross weight and 65 feet, 10 inches (19.837–20.066 meters), empty. It has an operating empty weight of 337,100 pounds (152,906 kilograms), and a maximum takeoff weight of 700,000 pounds (317,515 kilograms).

Boeing 747SP three-view illustration with dimensions

The 747SP could be ordered with Pratt & Whitney JT9D- or Rolls-Royce RB211-series engines. These engines had a range of thrust of 43,500–51,980 pounds (193.50–231.22 kilonewtons) for takeoff (5-minute limit), and resulted in variations of the airliner’s empty weight and fuel capacity.

The airliner had a design cruising speed (VC) of 0.86 Mach, and a maximum operating speed (VMO/MMO) of 375 knots KEAS, or 0.92 Mach. The service ceiling is 45,100 feet (13,746 meters) and the design range is 5,830 nautical miles (6,709 statute miles/10,797 kilometers). The fuel capacity is 48,780 U.S. gallons (184,652 liters), and it carries 600 gallons (2,271 liters) of water for engine injection.

Boeing 747SP–21 N40135, c/n 21025, 1 January 1975. (747SP.com)

The record-setting Boeing 747SP-21, serial number 21025, was the fourth Special Performance 747 built, and one of 10 that had been ordered by Pan American World Airways. It first flew 8 October 1975, in Boeing’s corporate paint scheme. It was then retained for use in the test fleet. When flight testing was completed, the airliner was refurbished and repainted in the Pan Am livery. It was delivered to the airline 5 March 1976 and registered N533PA.

While in the Pan Am fleet, N533PA also carried the names Clipper New Horizons, Clipper Young America and Clipper San Francisco.

Pan Am Boeing 747SP–21, N533PA, c/n 21025, renamed Clipper Young America, circa 1985.  It still carries the “Flight 50” insignia. (747SP.com)
Compare this standard Boeing 747–121, Pan American’s Clipper Sea Serpent, N655PA, to the 747SP in the photograph above. (Detail from image by Bruno Geiger)

Pan American sold its fleet of Boeing 747SPs to United Airlines in 1986. 21025 was re-registered N143UA to reflect its new ownership. Twenty years after its first flight, 21025 was removed from service in 1995 and placed in storage at Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was scrapped in December 1997. The airliner had accumulated 78,941 total flight hours on its airframe (TTAF) with 10,733 cycles.

United Air Lines’ Boeing 747SP–21 N143UA, c/n 21025. (747SP.com)

¹ FAI Record File Number 5671

² FAI Record File Number 5669

³ FAI Record File Number 1338

⁴ FAI Record File Number 5670

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 February 1964

The Beatles arrival at New York, 7 February 1964. N704PA is the airliner in the background.
The Beatles arrival at New York, 7 February 1964. N704PA is the airliner in the background. (Detail from Los Angeles Times photograph)

7 February 1964: At 1:20 p.m. EST, The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, arrived in America at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London aboard Pan American World Airways’ Flight 101, a Boeing 707-331, serial number 17683, N704PA, named Jet Clipper Defiance. They were welcomed by an estimated 4,000 fans and 200 journalists.

This was the performers’ first visit to the United States. During their three week tour, they were twice guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, with each live television appearance being watched by more than 70,000,000 persons. They performed concerts at the Washington Coliseum, Washington, D.C., and at Carnegie Hall, New York City. The Beatles returned to the United Kingdom, 22 February 1964.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 1964 file photo, Paul McCartney, right, shows his guitar to Ed Sullivan before the Beatles' live television appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in New York. Behind Sullivan, from left, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr. CBS is planning a two-hour special on Feb. 9, 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ groundbreaking first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” (AP Photo, File)
Paul McCartney (right) shows his left-handed Hoffner 500/1 electric bass guitar to Ed Sullivan, 9 February 1964. Behind Sullivan’s left shoulder is John Lennon. Just visible behind McCartney is Ringo Starr. (AP Photo)

The Boeing 707 was developed from the earlier Model 367–80 prototype, the “Dash Eighty.” It is a four-engine jet transport with swept wings and tail surfaces. The leading edge of the wings are swept at a 35° angle.

The 707-331 had a flight crew of three: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. It could carry a maximum of 189 passengers. It was was 152 feet, 11 inches (46.609 meters) long, with a wingspan of 145 feet, 9 inches (44.425 meters) and overall height 42 feet, 1 inches (12.827 meters) at its operating empty weight. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces are swept 35°. The fuselage has a maximum diameter of 12 feet, 8.0 inches (3.759 meters). The -321B has a typical empty weight of 142,780 pounds (64,764 kilograms), and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 327,000 pounds (148,325 kilograms). The usable fuel capacity is 23,855 gallons (90,301 liters).

Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-331 N704PA, Jet Clipper Defiance, at Stockholm, July 1966. (© Lars Söderström)

All 707-series aircraft are powered by four jet engines installed in nacelles below and forward of the wings on pylons. N704PA was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT4A-12 two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a 2-stage fan, 15-stage compressor (8 low-, 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It was rated at 14,900 pounds of thrust ( kilonewtons), maximum continuous power, and 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 kilonewtons) at 9,355 r.p.m. (N₂) for takeoff. The engine was 12 feet, 0.1 inches (3.660 meters) long, 3 feet, 6.5 inches (1.080 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,100 pounds (2,313 kilograms).

The 707-331 had a maximum operating speed (MMO) of 0.887 Mach, above 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). At 24,900 feet (7,590 meters), its maximum indicated airspeed (VMO) was 378 knots (435 miles per hour/700 kilometers per hour).

At MTOW, the 707-331 required 10,840 feet (3,304 meters) of runway for takeoff.

The Boeing 707 was in production from 1958 to 1979. 1,010 were built. As of 2013, just ten 707s were still in service.

Jet Clipper Defiance was originally registered to Trans World Airways as N771TW, but never delivered. (It carried a Trans World Airlines model number, 707-331, rather than a Pan American code, 707-321.) It was then sold to Pan Am, delivered 23 March 1960 and registered N704PA. Late in its career, it was leased to several smaller airlines.

Pan Am sold N704PA to Air Vietnam (Hàng không Việt Nam) 21 December 1973. It was registered XV-NJD. After the Fall of Sài Gòn, 30 April 1975, Pan American reacquired the airliner, and then resold it to Aerotron Aircraft Radio, Inc., Long Beach, California. It was re-registered N9230Z. This registration was cancelled 8 January 1976. Jet Clipper Defiance was scrapped at Long Beach inJune 1977.

Hàng không Việt Nam‘s Boeing 707-331, XV-NJD, c/n 17683, at Kai Tak International Airport (HKG), 8 December 1974. (VOLPATI/Wikimedia Commons)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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