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30th of October 1977

It was on this day in aviation history that the Pan Am Clipper New Horizons, a Boeing 747SP (N533PA) landed back in San Francisco after an around the world flight, over both the North and South pole.

Boeing 747SP, Clipper New Horizons in flight


The flight had started on the 28th of October and it took place in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Pan Am, it lasted 54 hours 7 minutes and 12 seconds There were just over 170 passengers onboard who paid serious bugs for the trip;

  • Economy Class Ticket $2222,00 (about $10.000 in 2021)

  • Business Class Ticket $3333.00 (about $15.000 in 2021)

For that money, they were entertained with live music and a Gucci Fashion Show, while a hairdresser was also available.

The route would be flown in four flights;

  1. San Francisco to London, via the North Pole Distance 5564 nm - Flight time 11 h 16 m

  2. London to Cape Town Distance 5350 nm - Flight time 11 h 6 m

  3. Cape Town to Auckland, via the South Pole Distance 6560 nm - Flight time 14 h 7 m

  4. Auckland to San Francisco Distance 5732 nm - Flight time 11 h 34 m

The flight received official recognition from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale as the average speed of 423.2 knots ( 487 mph - 784 kph) was a world speed record for a flight over both poles. The average cruise height during the flight was 43.000 ft (13.100 meters). The same aircraft, then named Clipper Liberty Bell, set a speed record earlier in the year for circumnavigating the Earth over the Equator.

The Boeing 747SP (Special Performance) was developed on request of Pan Am so it could fly its longest route (New York - Tehran) non-stop with a full payload. In July 1975 the Boeing 747SP flew for the first time, receiving its CofA from the FAA in February 1976. It is 47 feet (14 meters) shorter than the other Boeing 747 models of that time. Only four doors were installed on every side of the fuselage, while the fin had to be increased in size for longitudinal stability. The aircraft had a range of 5830 nm (10.800 km) with a full load of 276 passengers in a three-class cabin.

Boeing 747SP Prototype N747SP during its first certification flight, 4 July 1975

Specifications of the Boeing 747SP; Cockpit crew 3 (2 pilots, flight engineer) Overall length 184 ft 9 in (56.31 m)

Wingspan 195 ft 8 in (59.64 m) Overall height 65 ft 10 in (20.07 m) OWE 325,260–336,870 lb (147,540–152,800 kg) MTOW 696,000 lb (315,700 kg)

MLW 450,000 lb (204,100 kg) Engine models PW JT9D-7(A/AH/F/FW/J) 46,950–50,000 lbf thrust

RR RB211-524(B2/C2/D4) 49,150–51,980 lbf

Mmo Mach 0.92 (542 kn; 1,004 km/h) Cruising speed Mach 0.86 (493 kn; 914 km/h)

Service ceiling 45,100 feet (13,700 m)

Maximum range 6,650 nmi (12,320 km; 7,650 mi)

Max Fuel cap. 50,360 US gal (190,630 L)

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