What Happened To TWA’s Boeing 747s?

Trans World Airlines (TWA) was one of the big four domestic airlines in the US and operated from 1930 to 2001. Throughout its 70 year reign, some 300 aircraft flew for TWA, including 37 Boeing 747s. What happened to these aircraft, and where are they now?

TWA 747
Where did TWA’s 747s go? Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia

TWA’s evolving fleet

As the airline launched in 1930, it operated some unusual and historic aircraft in its time. Notable inclusions include 40 Lockheed Constellations, 41 Lockheed L-1011 Tristars, a huge fleet of 104 Douglas DC3s and the only DC-1 ever built.

By 1970, its fleet looked a little more familiar, largely relying on Boeing’s 707s and 727s, alongside Convair and Douglas aircraft. However, by 1970, TWA had inducted its first three Boeing 747s, and had an order in place for a further 12.

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Over the next 15 years, a total of 37 Boeing 747s would join the TWA fleet, mostly 747-100s, but also a handful of -200s and three of the 747SP variants. By 1998, all but one had gone, with the final 747-100 leaving in September 2000, months before the airline stopped trading for good.

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The 747-100s

TWA had, in total, 27 of the Boeing 747-100 variants. The first two were delivered in December 1969, with a further 15 joining the airline over the course of 1970 and 1971. Eight more arrived in the 1980s, and just two joined later, in 1996.

TWA 747-100
Many of the original TWA 747-100s were scrapped. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Nine of the early 747-100s were scrapped by TWA after around 15 or so years in service. Nine more went off to other airlines, with some serving in fleets as diverse as Qantas, El Al and Garuda Indonesia over the coming years. However, all have now been scrapped.

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The final nine aircraft all ended up with the Iran Air Force. Six were converted to cargo aircraft by Boeing before heading to the Middle East, while three remain passenger jets. While five are now either scrapped or stored and one was written off, incredibly three remain listed as in active service.

IAF 747
Three of the converted freighters remain in service in Iran today. Photo: Ali Safdarian via Wikimedia

N93118 is still being used as 5-8107, N93113 as EP-CQB and N93101 as EP-AJT. These three old girls are 48, 49 and 50 years old respectively, and a testament to the build quality and longevity of these original 747s.

Sadly, one TWA 747-100 did not have such a happy ending. N93119 was a 24 year old 747-100 which was performing TWA flight 800 on 17th July 1996, going from New York JFK to Paris. After a successful takeoff and climb to FL150, the aircraft exploded, breaking up and spreading debris into the ocean eight miles south of East Moriches.

N93119
N93119 exploded shortly after take off in 1996. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia

A four year investigation by the NTSB concluded that the probable cause was a short circuit that allowed excessive voltage to travel inside the center wing fuel tank, causing ignition of the flammable fuel inside. 212 passengers and 18 crew all lost their lives in the incident.

The 747-200

Only seven -200s were ever operated by TWA. The first joined the fleet in 1984, and the last arrived in 1996. The last to leave was N303TW, which exited in May 1998. Two were scrapped by TWA themselves, but the other five went on to work for other airlines before being sent to the big scrapheap in the sky.

Tower Air took two of the 747-200s, joining its all-747 fleet of 30 total aircraft. This charter airline operated from 1983 until 2000, when it was declared bankrupt and liquidated. The two ex-TWA 747s were taken by creditors and eventually broken up.

Tower Air
Two of TWA’s 747s ended up at Tower Air, a 747 only operator. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

N304TW went on to work for Air Atlanta Icelandic, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Canada’s Nationair until being bought by an investor in 1994 and subsequently scrapped. N307TW headed south to work for Aerolineas Argentinas for three years, and then to Aeromar in the Dominican Republic, Transjet in Sweden, and Northeast in Swaziland before ending up at Kallat El-Saker Air Company in Libya and being scrapped in 2012.

And finally, N303TW spent some time with Saudi Arabian Airlines also, as well as Aerolineas Argentinas and Pegasus Aviation before being stored in 1999.

The 747SPs

The final variant of the TWA 747 fleet to examine is the 747SPs, the baby of the family. All three aircraft arrived in 1980, but by 1986, all had left.

The first, registered N57202 worked for many years for American Airlines. It then spent some time with Kazakhstan Airlines and Air Atlanta before being scrapped. The other two, however, had some interesting times ahead.

TWA 747
American Airlines took TWA’s 747SP for some years. Photo: SDASM Archives via Flickr

N57203 also went to American Airlines for some years but was then converted to a VIP jet and used to transport the Dubai Royal family. In 2004, it changed hands again, becoming P4-FHS and belonging to Ernest Angley Ministries. Named Star Triple Seven, the 747SP is used to transport missionaries and humanitarian aid internationally.

Star Triple Seven
Star Triple Seven on missionary work in Africa. Photo: Hansueli Krapf via Wikimedia

The final SP, and final 747 in TWA’s fleet, N58201 left TWA in 1985 to work also for the Dubai Royal Family (they do love their SPs!). It stayed with them until 2007, when it was bought by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Registered as VP-BLK, it’s now one of two 747SPs that the Sands corporation own, using them to ferry high rollers to and from their properties in Las Vegas.

TWA 747 Sands Corporation
VP-BLK alongside VQ-BMS (ex-Pan Am), the pair of 747SPs owned by the Sands Corporation. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

Did you ever fly on a TWA 747? Let us know in the comments!

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Shabin Williams

Pretty sure the first 747-200 did NOT join the fleet in 1948.

William Baker

The first 747-282B Joined Twa on June 1984.

mason

you sound dumb the first 747 to take off was in 1969 X_X

Rich

Flew LHR-LAX 4-5 times a year from 78-85 and then LGW-STL-HNL 3-4 times a year from 95 – 98. Even flew 800 the year before the accident. Loved TWA 747’s in the 70’s and 80’s. So special but it was a long flight with one Super 8 movie in 70’s. All went down the Pan when Icahn got involved. Always remember the footstools in Royal Ambassador used to collapse if you were not careful. Happy days.

Pete

I flew on a TWA 747-100 in July 1985, from London-Heathrow to Chicago!!!

Doug

Flew 747’s to and from Hawaii and home from London in the early 90’s. Worked on them for years in Kansas City. Loved them!

Chris

I did three rides, all in 1983.

1) October 30 , which was my connecting flight back to Boston from their flight 4, TWA’s last “scheduled” 707 flight Miami-JFK, the last 707 service in the continental US. The 707 was only half full. Today, such a special flight would have sold out very quickly I imagine!
2) July 1983, my only SP flight, Boston to Rome, flight 846, connecting to
3) Flight 840, a regular 747 Rome – Athens, though the flight was marketed as a direct flight Boston-Athens

Wish I had done more.

Richard Penny

Flew on N93105 TW761 LHR/LAX 12April 1983 ..Flew home on a 1011 Tristar N81028 LVG-PHX-JFK-LHR

David Brockelmeyer

Non-stop STL to HNL in 1985 on one of the -200 variations.

robert

I remember that flight…001 from stl-hnl …took off between 12 and 1 pm

Mark

Flew 35 times on TWA 747s between 1986 and 1993. Had the “Gold Card” in the FF program and use to get free business class upgrades even on international! You only needed 30K actual miles in a 12 month period to qualify for it. Most of my international flights were LAX-LHR and also did LAX-JFK and LAX-STL frequently (L-1011s too)

E. Christopher

Yes! In 1970, ORD-LHR, TW770. First 747!

Francisco Dalmau

Several times flew TWA B747s from MAD to JFK. A few times flew on them form BCN to MAD (for onward journey to JFK), and once form BCN to LIS, then to JFK (with go around included in JFK!). Similar trips back to Spain, but also on B767 (non-stop to BCN from JFK), and few times L1011s…
Don’t remember flying in/out of STL on B747s, maybe once.

sam

Thank you for an interesting article. I flew 33 times on TWA which was a client of my firm. They used to have an enormous office overlooking Tahrir Square in Cairo. They once told me that they only paid $800 per year in rent because of old policies of rent control introduced by the socialist President Nasser. I’m sorry to say that Egyptians used to call TWA “Teezek Wassa Awi” which means, politely translated, “You have a very wide bottom”! In the sad, waning years of this pioneering airline I attended a meeting at their headquarters in St. Louis, having… Read more »

Albert Yenchick

In 1980 I boarded a 747 from HNL to GUM for my new job. I remember my wife and I sleeping in empty rows on our 9hr flight. I felt like i was the most fortunate person in the world…it was huge!

Victor

Not mentioned is that N133TW & N134TW were Ex Iberia EC-BRO & EC-BRP purchased by TWA in Jan 1980

patrick

my wife worked as an air hostess in TWA she quit after 4 years of a royal life and left good memories of her so she got reemployed from paris and got training in london for what was the early use of computer,she worked at the reservation on champs elysees while this was for a 6 months stretch since we had decided to live in india, it was ideal and we got so much of free tickets my wife being a model employee appreciated by her boss that evry time we went back to india we had a collection of… Read more »

Michael

Worked on the Queen Of The Skies for many years. Most elegant out there then an now, planes now are just boring.

Mark Tennant

Flew twa 747 from heathrow to New York in 1974 never forget the turbulence for virtually all the flight

TWA Capt., Bill Kirschner, Ret.

I flew all those aircraft for many years and instructed on them for TWA.
I thought 118 was destroyed taking off out of Tarahone Spain when It was hit by lightning and completely destroyed. 118 had been converted to cargo and sold to Iran.
Thank you for a very interesting article, Capt. Bill Kirschner, TWA retired

Angeline Archer

I was a TWA brat, and flew on many of the 747-100s.

Roland

Flew twice on F840 LAX – JFK (once in Ambassador Class upper deck) and once F005 MIA – JFK. Amazing trips

SEWB

Flew TWA 747 from Heathrow to JFK in 1977 when I immigrated to the States with my family. I was 14 at the time. Plane was delayed three hours at Heathrow due to a faulty door so by the time we arrived in NY our dog in the cargo hold was dying to pee (he refused to go in the crate). Took him out for a walk and he peed on one of the doors of the TWA terminal. Not good but funny.

747researchmania

Not mentioned is that N303TW & N304TW were Ex Swissair HB-IGA & HB-IGB purchased by TWA in May 1985! By the way, N303TW is still exist in Marana.