When a Boeing 747SP was delivered to US carrier TWA in 1980, few would have guessed the strange fate it would meet over 20 years later. Some passenger jets remain passenger jets until they’re ready to be dismantled. Some might be lucky to have their lives extended with a freighter conversion. One 747SP, after flying for TWA, managed to serve Dubai Royalty before going to an American televangelist.
The early life of 747 Line Number 441
When the Boeing 747SP with Line No. 441 rolled out of the factory in 1980, it was headed to major US carrier Trans World Airlines (TWA) under the registration N57203. The aircraft served under the TWA name for six years before being transferred to American Airlines in October 1986. With American, it was re-registered as N602AA.
The aircraft would go on to fly with American Airlines for eight solid years before finding a new owner on the other side of the world…
After flying everyday commercial passengers around the world, this jet would take on a rather different role, joining the Dubai Air Wing as a VIP aircraft in December 1994. In this role, it would be registered as A6-SMM.
This aircraft ‘operator’ serves the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In addition to that, however, the Dubai Air Wing operates flights for the Dubai Royal Family, including the Emir of Dubai.
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An aircraft on a mission
After flying with the Dubai Air Wing for 10 years, A6-SMM would then be re-registered to P4-FSH. Its new operator would be Ernest Angley Ministries.
If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Ernest Angley was a prominent televangelist (television evangelist/preacher). The North Carolina native ran a fairly successful ministry, sharing his religion with followers around the world. Angley passed away last month at the age of 99.
The following blurb is how USA Today describes Angely’s ministry at the time of his jumbo jet purchase:
“Angley was spawning a megachurch that brought in so much money that by 2005 he was able to buy a $26 million Boeing 747, which he used for overseas mission trips.”
The aircraft held on to the two red stripes that lined the aircraft of the Dubai Air Wing (TWA’s red stripes are similar but wrap around the nose). However, the 747 would lose the UAE flag on the tail, and be replaced by a large colorful star. The aircraft would be given the name “Star Triple Seven.”
With the range offered by the 747SP, Star Triple Seven would travel to distant regions of the world, including embarking on an African tour. Its time with Ernest Angely Ministries would last about 13 years until its withdrawal from use in March 2018. Since then, it has been stored at Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona.
Mounting maintenance bills
It was in 2019 that The Christian Post reported that Angley and his ministry were unable to pay for repairs needed on the 747SP. A source reportedly said,
“The value in that plane is parts, and I will tell you even if they parted the whole plane out, I would say you’d be lucky to get a million bucks.”
We know a few things about the current state of the aircraft from two sources. Planespotters.net notes that the aircraft remains stored at Pinal Airpark, while ch-aviation.com says that registered owner and operator remains Ernest Angley Ministries.
At this point, given the age of the aircraft, and the limited role 747SPs offer, it’s unlikely the jet will fly out of Pinal. Indeed, of the few 747SPs still active, one of the more notable ones is ‘SOFIA’ operated by NASA– an extremely niche operation.
Thus, it would be quite a miracle if Star Triple Seven manages to extend its service life. Of course, given the aircraft’s most recent role, rising from the dead should be a message it’s familiar with.
Did you know about this particular 747SP? Let us know in the comments.