The Story Of TWA’s Boeing 747SPs

Trans World Airlines, known in short as TWA, had a rich history that lasted for more than seven decades. Between 1930 and 2001, the carrier operated a wide variety of aircraft from several different manufacturers. Boeing was one of the most common of these, and TWA flew multiple different variants of its iconic 747 family. Among these were three examples of the short-fuselage 747SP. Let’s take a look at the story of these aircraft.

TWA Boeing 747SP
TWA flew its 747SPs in the early 1980s. Photo: Tim Rees via Wikimedia Commons


According to data from, the first 747SP to join TWA arrived in March 1980, bearing the registration N58201. This variant stood out conspicuously compared to the airline’s 747-100s and -200s, as it was around 14 meters shorter in length. It did, however, boast a higher range than the original 747-100, as requested by Pan Am and Iran Air.

All in all, N58201 spent almost half a decade with Trans World Airlines. It eventually left the fleet just under five years after arriving, in February 1985. Parting is such sweet sorrow, as William Shakespeare famously wrote, but the aircraft was soon back in action in a VIP capacity in the Middle East. It flew for the Dubai Air Wing as A6-SMR until June 2007.

Sands Boeing 747SP
Now more than 41 years old, the aircraft belongs to Las Vegas Sands. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

It then underwent a brief period of ownership at leasing company Interface Operations, registered as N992MS. Then, in August 2007, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation acquired the luxurious 50-seat aircraft. 14 years later, this company still owns the 747SP, which now bears the registration VP-BLK. More than 41 years have passed since its first flight.

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N57202 lists a further two examples of the 747SP as having been operated by TWA. The next to arrived joined the airline in April 1980, under the registration N57202. For the first year of its time at the airline, it also bore the name Boston Express. It joined American Airlines in July 1986 after leaving TWA, serving the carrier until February 1994.

Kazakhstan Airlines Boeing 747SP
The aircraft during its stint at Kazakhstan Airlines. Photo: Simon Butler via Flickr

Its next operator was Kazakhstan Airlines, which flew the aircraft until April 1996 under the registration UN-001. After a year at Air Finance Limited, its final passenger-carrying spell took it to Air Atlanta Icelandic as TF-ABN from August 1997 to May 1999. Three years later, the aircraft was preserved in Luxembourg for use as an evacuation training aid.


The final 747SP to join TWA did so hot on the heels of its classmates, coming onboard in May 1980. This plane bore the registration N57203, and experienced a similar fate to N57202, to begin with, in being transferred to American Airlines in October 1986. Much like its counterpart, it also left the Fort Worth-based US legacy carrier in 1986.

Dubai Air Wing Boeing 747SP
Two ex-TWA 747SPs later flew for the Dubai Air Wing. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

However, after this, it followed a similar path to N58201 by joining the Dubai Air Wing as a VIP aircraft in December 1994. After a decade of service in the Middle East, Ernest Angley Ministries acquired the luxurious aircraft in November 2004. It was eventually withdrawn from use in March 2018, and placed into storage in Arizona two months later.

Did you know that TWA used to fly the Boeing 747SP? Have you ever seen or flown on one on your travels? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.