The Boeing 747 fundamentally changed the nature of long-haul air travel. As a family, it has been in service for more than half a century since its first commercial flight from New York to London in 1970. It is sadly becoming an increasingly rare aircraft today, particularly when it comes to older examples. However, there are a handful of passenger-configured jumbo jets that remain active today aged over 40 years old. Let’s find out which ones they are.
42 years and counting
According to data from ch-aviation.com, the oldest active passenger-configured Boeing 747 still flying today is 42.89 years old. Registered as HZ-HM1B, the Saudi Arabian Royal Flight ordered the aircraft on November 9th, 1977. It made its first flight on August 28th, 1978, before being delivered to Saudi Arabia on July 11th, 1979, registered as HZ-HM1.
It has remained with this operator ever since, with the ‘B’ suffix being added in September 1984. The aircraft is a short-fuselage Boeing 747SP (‘Special Performance’), and is fitted with a VIP configuration. A reason for its longevity could be the fact that, as of February, it had flown just 1413 hours across 894 cycles, averaging just 33.22 hours across 21 cycles a year.
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Just a little younger
The second-oldest passenger-configured 747 that remains active today is also a short-fuselage 747SP. However, while the oldest example has remained with a single operator for its entire career, this example has had a rather more varied service life.
Now aged 41.62 years old, VP-BLK has been owned by Las Vegas Sands since 2007. However, it started its career back in 1980 flying for Trans World Airlines (TWA). It moved to the Dubai Air Wing in 1985, where it was refitted with a VIP seating configuration.
Registered as A6-SMR, it flew for the Dubai Air Wing in this exclusive capacity until June 2007. It joined Las Vegas Sands in August that year following a brief period of ownership at Interface Operations LLC. Interestingly, VP-BLK has amassed considerably more hours (25,871) and cycles (6,174) than HZ-HM1, despite being over a year younger than the Saudi jet.
The oldest non-VIP version
While those two aircraft are impressively old, everyday passengers’ chances of flying on them are remote. However, not far behind them in terms of age is a Boeing 747-300M operated by Iranian carrier Mahan Air that clocks in at 35.25 years old.
Registered as EP-MNE, this aircraft was first delivered to UTA in April 1986, according to Planespotters.net. It spent its longest stint at Air France for a 16-year spell that spanned from October 1991 to November 2007, before joining Mahan Air.
Having initially been registered as EK-74780 at the Iranian carrier, it assumed its current identity in November 2008. There was considerable excitement regarding the aircraft in April this year, when it returned to active passenger-carrying service after a hiatus lasting nearly six years. Mahan Air had withdrawn it in October 2015 after an uncontained engine failure.
What’s the oldest aircraft that you’ve ever flown on? Was it a classic Boeing 747, or another design altogether? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.