The Fall Of The Boeing 747-200

At the time of its launch, the Boeing 747-200 represented the next step for the company’s iconic four-engine widebody. It offered operators various improvements on the original 747-100, and ultimately went on to become the second best-selling variant from the family. Despite this, the passing of time and the introduction of newer 747s with further improvements eventually caused the aircraft to lose some of its significance.

Alitalia Boeing 747-200
The 747-200 typically had more upper deck windows than the original 747-100. Photo: Aldo Bidini via Wikimedia Commons

Why did Boeing build the 747-200?

Boeing developed the 747-200 hot on the heels of its original 747-100 design. According to Modern Airliners, this resulted in the type entering service just a year after the -100, in February 1971. The aim of the 747-200 was to offer airlines a variant of the ‘jumbo jet’ with increased performance capabilities compared to the original for longer-haul flights.

Its range comfortably outranked that of the -100, eventually achieving a figure of 12,150 km (6,560 NM). Meanwhile, the 747-100 could manage just 8,560 km (4,620 NM). The -200 partially owed this to its increased maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), which allowed for a greater fuel load. Its MTOW was 377.8 tons, compared to 333.4 for the 747-100.

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Air France Boeing 747-200M on very low final-approach over Maho Beach with hotels behind
The 747-200 offered various performance advantages over the original 747-100. Photo: Getty Images

Dwindling significance

The 747-200’s improvements over the 747-100 resulted in greater sales figures for the variant. All in all, Boeing produced 393 examples of the type across all versions, including 225 of the standard passenger-carrying 747-200B. Meanwhile, versions of the -100 totaled just 205 sales. As such, the -200 became a staple of long-haul travel in the late 20th century.

Production of the 747-200 eventually ceased in 1991. By this time, two more 747 variants had been introduced, which would signify the beginning of its fall. The first of these was the 747-300. While this didn’t sell particularly well, its stretched upper deck set the trend for future 747s. It was followed by the 747-400, which became the most popular variant.

The 747-200 today

With the newer models offering increased capacity (as well as the convenience of a two-person glass cockpit in the case of the -400), the 747-200 slowly fell out of favor. In fairness, it did fly alongside the newer variants for several years after its production ended. Iran Air finally retired the final passenger-carrying example in May 2016, aged 36 years old.

Rolls-Royce Boeing 747-200
Rolls-Royce’s 747-200 testbed, N787RR. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

Overall, the 747-200’s decline has been such that, according to data from ch-aviation.com, there is just one active example left in the world. This aircraft bears the registration N787RR, and is owned by engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. The company uses the 41-year old plane as a testbed aircraft. It previously flew for Cathay Pacific and Air Atlanta Icelandic.

Rolls-Royce has owned this aircraft since 2005, when it was already 25 years old. Despite its age, it still takes regular test flights for the company. Data from RadarBox.com shows that the last of these, a four-hour jaunt from Tucson, Arizona, took place on June 4th.

Unfortunately, the situation for the rest of the world’s 747-200s is a rather bleaker affair. Indeed, ch-aviation’s data shows that the vast majority have been scrapped, with just 20 inactive examples in storage. However, some of the stored examples have been preserved at museums (and even as a hostel!), allowing their legacy, even if not airborne, to live on.

Did you ever fly on a Boeing 747-200? If so, where did it take you, and what was the airline in question? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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