What Happened To Singapore Airlines Boeing 747’s?

Singapore Airlines retired its last passenger Boeing 747 in 2012. While you might still see 747’s jetting about featuring Singapore Airlines livery, they’re now strictly cargo planes. However, for 39 years, the Boeing 747 was a staple of the Singapore Airlines passenger fleet, first flying with the airline in 1973. The grand old lady of the Singapore Airlines fleet is still fondly remembered by many passengers. For many, the Boeing 747 came to symbolize Singapore Airlines, but where are they now?

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 powers out of Auckland 20 years ago. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines line up to take ex-Singapore Airlines 747s

Between July 1973 and June 2007, Singapore Airlines took delivery of 86 Boeing 747s. But, they were never all in the air at the one time. Singapore Airlines retired its first 747 in 1979. The first 747 retirement was 9V-SIA. It was a Boeing 747-200. It went to Flying Tiger Line, a US cargo airline now part of FedEx.

One of the interesting things about the Singapore Airlines 747 fleet is the wide variety of airlines putting up their hands to take the ex-Singapore Airlines planes. That says a lot about Singapore Airlines’ reputation for the maintenance and upkeep of its planes. While some Boeing 747s were leased and went back to the lessors, most were owned outright and went to other airlines.

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One of the first airlines to put up their hands for a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 was Olympic Airways. They took three Boeing 747-200s (9V-SQH, 9V-SQI, and 9V-SQJ) in the mid-1980s.

Ex-Singapore Airlines Boeing 747s were also part of Virgin Atlantic’s fleet in their earlier days. Virgin Atlantic took two Boeing 747-200s in 1989. They were 9V-SQN and 9V-SQL. 9V-SQN flew for Virgin Atlantic for five years as G-TKYO. 9V-SQL spent six years at Virgin Atlantic, flying as G-VRGN. Both planes spent their last years flying for US cargo airline Kalitta Air before getting scrapped in 2013.

A former Singapore Airlines 747-200, operating as G-TKYO for Virgin Atlantic in1990. Photo: Andrew Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Local competitor airlines put up their hands for old Singapore Airlines 747s

Another regular ex-Singapore Airlines 747 customer was regional rival Cathay Pacific. They took around 10 planes over the years. This week, Simple Flying reported the demise of Cathay Dragon. Readers of a certain vintage will recall when Cathay Dragon was known as Dragonair and not owned by Cathay Pacific. Back then, Dragonair also took ex-Singapore Airlines Boeing 747s. Dragonair took six 747s all up, the last in 1994. That last plane, 9V-SMY, became B-KAI and stayed in the air until 2013.

Other notable airlines taking ex Singapore Airlines 747s included El Al, Corsair, and Fiji Airways (then Air Pacific). Only one Singapore Airlines 747 didn’t go on to a second life elsewhere. In October 2000, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (registered as 9V-SPK) crashed into concrete barriers while trying to take off from Tiawan in bad weather. The plane got written off. It was less than four years old.

Singapore Airlines still operates Boeing 747 flights, but only for cargo. Photo: Getty Images

The last Boeing 747 flight for Singapore Airlines

On April 6th, 2012, Singapore Airlines operated its last Boeing 747 flight. The plane, 9V-SPQ, flew SQ747 from Singapore to Hong Kong and returned as SQ748 from Hong Kong to Singapore. Reflecting on the history of the 747 for Singapore Airlines, Executive Vice President Commercial, Mr Mak Swee Wah, then had the following to say:

“The 747 was truly the jewel in our fleet for nearly four decades, and we would not be the airline that we are today if we had not made the bold decision in 1972 to purchase this iconic jetliner.”

Seven Boeing 747s live on flying cargo for Singapore Airlines. While they are longstanding Singapore Airlines planes, none of them ever flew passengers. Singapore Airlines began buying dedicated 747 freighters in the early 2000s.

While you can no longer take a ride on one, now and then, you’ll get the chance to see a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 coming into land at an airport near now. A reminder perhaps, of the best planes Singapore Airlines ever operated.