Portuguese flag carrier TAP has served the West-European country since 1945. During this time, the airline has operated a wide range of aircraft types from its bases in Lisbon, Porto, and Madeira. Among these were four planes from Boeing’s iconic 747 family. Let’s take a look at the story of TAP Air Portugal’s relationship with the ‘Queen of the skies.’
When did they arrive?
The Boeing 747 ushered in a new era in aviation history when it operated its first commercial flight, a Pan Am service from New York to London, in January 1970. This game-changing jet quickly proved popular with carriers worldwide, and it was just over two years before TAP Portugal got in on the act. Its first 747 (CS-TJA) arrived in February 1972.
TAP AIR PORTUGAL – Boeing 747 pic.twitter.com/CgjmP3JwBE
— Rubens Custodio (@CustodioRubens) January 12, 2021
According to data from ATDB.aero, this aircraft was the first of four Boeing 747-200Bs that TAP received in the 1970s. The others arrived in May 1972 (CS-TJB), May 1974 (CS-TJC), and February 1975 (CS-TJD). Interestingly, TAP became the first European carrier to carry out overhauls on the Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofan engines that powered its jumbos.
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When did they leave?
Unfortunately, the last two aircraft to join TAP had a short service life at the carrier. In April 1976, the decreasing demand in the African market amid Angola and Mozambique’s newfound independence forced TAP to sell them to Pakistan International Airways.
CS-TJC spent the rest of its career at PIA, before being scrapped in 2002. Meanwhile, CS-TJD served PIA until 2005, after which it was stored under the ownership of EAS in Marana, Arizona until 2010. At this point, Baltia Airlines assumed ownership of the plane, but it was eventually broken up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia just two years later, in 2012.
TAP’s first two 747s enjoyed a much longer tenure in Portugal, and served the airline for 12 years. They both left the Portuguese flag carrier in 1984 to join Trans World Airlines (TWA) in the US. Their next steps were also identical, with both aircraft then joining Tower Air in 1993. By 2005, both aircraft had been broken up in Victorville, aged nearly 33 years old.
TAP’s long-haul fleet today
TAP replaced its 747s with aircraft such as the Lockheed L1-1011 ‘TriStar.’ Meanwhile, the Airbus A310 filled the gaps left by TAP’s retirements of its other Boeing quadjet, the 707. However, its long-haul fleet has seen extensive further development since then.
According to data from ch-aviation.com, the Portuguese flag carrier’s present widebody fleet consists of four Airbus A330-200s, and 19 A330-900s. In the case of the latter, TAP became the first carrier to deploy the A330neo family on a revenue earning flight back in 2018. Last year, the pandemic also saw it operate the world’s first makeshift A330neo freighter.
Interestingly, narrowbody aircraft are also playing an increasing role in TAP’s longer-haul operations. The airline received its first Airbus A321LR back in 2019, and has operated flights as long as 10 hours with the type! Portugal’s location at the western periphery of Europe makes it an ideal base for narrowbody flights across the Atlantic Ocean.
Did you ever fly on one of TAP Air Portugal’s Boeing 747s? If so, which one, and where did it take you? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!