Did you know that Boeing developed and built a short-haul version of the Boeing 747? Designed to fly around 660 passengers in a single configuration only a short distance, this Boeing design found a place operating for high-density routes in Asia. Meet the Boeing 747-400D.
What is the story of the Boeing 747-400D?
Boeing was on a roll with the release of its fourth version of the famous Boeing 747-400. However, Boeing also had created one of the best civilian aviation platforms for various different uses on the market at the time and wasted no effort trying to customize the Boeing 747-400 for as many different niches as possible.
These ranged from a freighter version (with the nose that lifts up), an extended range version with extra fuel tanks for airlines needing to fly long distances (like Qantas, who ordered six of the aircraft) and even a version used by Boeing to carry aircraft components between factories!
But little is known about the 747-400D version of the 747. This was not designed for short-range, nor cargo capacity. It was created specifically for the Japanese market for short-haul high dense routes.
What was the 747-400D like?
The Boeing 747-400D had the same dimensions as the 747-400, but was configured internally to carry up to 660 passengers in a single class (or 568 in a two-class configuration). To make room for so many passengers, the upper deck galley was actually removed. This allowed the addition of more rows of economy seats upstairs. These seats did not have windows throughout, with only two new windows added at the rear of the deck.
Additionally, the 747-400D design actually lacked the wingtip extensions found on other aircraft because the fuel efficiencies would not be realized over such a short route. In fact, the winglets would only add to the weight of the aircraft and cost the operating airline money.
Who bought the aircraft?
As the aircraft had been specifically designed for the Japanese market place, the aircraft was primarily used in Japan. Only 19 were built, with the first going to JAL and the last one delivered to ANA back in 1996.
The design of the 747-400D was still flexible enough that the aircraft could have been easily converted into a long-range variant. This is one of the reasons why airlines bought the design in the first place.
It is rather fascinating that airlines saw a need for a short-haul high dense aircraft. If this had been popular, likely we would have seen routes such as Chicago to New York or Sydney to Melbourne switch from multiple 737s to one 747 per day. In fact, it may have even led Boeing to not develop the Boeing 797 at all.
Unfortunately, the last Boeing 747-400D was retired in March of 2014 by ANA and is no longer flying today. But the legacy of a double-decker aircraft designed for such short-haul routes lives on.
What do you think? Would you have flown onboard an all-economy 747? Let us know in the comments.