What Was The Boeing 747 ASB?

The Boeing 747 family has proven to be a very diverse line of aircraft. In terms of passenger variants alone, the US manufacturer has produced six variants. These have ranged from the original 747-100 to the next-generation 747-8. The only short-fuselage version has been the 747SP, whose suffix stands for Special Performance. However, did you know that Boeing also proposed another shortened version? This is the story of the 747 ASB.

Boeing 747SP
The 747 ASB would have had the same short fuselage as the 747SP. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

What was the Boeing 747 ASB?

The Boeing 747 family as a whole had already been in service for more than a decade and a half by the time it announced its plans to develop the 747 ASB in 1986. It had intended for this aircraft to challenge a pair of larger single-deck widebodies that were also in development at the time. These were the Airbus A340 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

The ASB suffix stood for Advanced Short Body. As the name suggests, it would have featured the same short fuselage as the existing 747SP, which had entered service a decade beforehand. The ‘Advanced’ nature refers to the fact that it would have used the more sophisticated technology found on the 747-400. The -400 entered service in 1989.

Pan Am Boeing 747SP
The first short-fuselage jumbo (747SP) entered service with Pan Am in 1976. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

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In terms of specifications, Boeing reportedly planned for its 747 ASB to have 295 seats. As we shall see, this figure is slightly higher than that of the aforementioned 747SP. Its planned range was an impressive 8,000 NM / 15,000 km. However, it never came to be.

Ditched in favor of the 777

For better or worse, the 747 ASB never saw the light of day as a production aircraft. The project lasted just two years as a concept, before Boeing canceled it due to a lack of interest from the airlines that it hoped would be its customers. However, the aircraft that Boeing elected to develop instead proved a great hit among carriers worldwide.

Boeing developed the 777 instead. The aircraft has sold nearly 1,700 units. Photo: Getty Images

Dropping the 747 ASB project prompted Boeing to instead focus on developing a single-deck twinjet to compete with the A340 and MD-11. This resulted in the 777 family, which has proven very successful. It has comfortably outsold these competitors, with Boeing having produced 1,662 examples to date. United launched the 777 commercially in 1995.

747SP – the short-fuselage 747 that made it

While the 747 ASB never reached production, we have touched upon the fact that another short-fuselage jumbo did. Of course, this was the long-range 747SP. This aircraft admittedly didn’t prove as popular as other 747 variants, with just 45 examples being built. However, the aircraft nonetheless has an interesting legacy and back story.

Iran Air Boeing 747SP
The 747SP allowed Iran Air to directly link New York and Tehran. Photo: contri via Flickr

Specifically, the 747SP came into being thanks to demand from Iran Air and Pan Am regarding a route between New York and Tehran. The airlines wanted Boeing to produce an aircraft that could make the trip non-stop, which the original 747-100 could not.

Boeing shortened the 747-100 by nearly 15 meters to create the 747SP, which entered service in 1976. It had a range of 5,830 NM /10,800 km, vs 4,620 NM / 8,560 km for the 747-100. However, its capacity was generally around 90 seats lower (276 vs 366). Nonetheless, its curious proportions make it a bucket list sighting for many avgeeks even today.

Did you know about the story of the Boeing 747 ASB? Would you have liked to have seen it be produced alongside or instead of the 777 family? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.