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VP-BLK — the sporty 747, the B-747SP

23 June 2014

VP-BLK — the sporty 747, the B-747SP

26° 04′ 24″ N / 80° 09′ 28″ W  [temporary position]


VP-BLK the Las Vegas Sands B-747SP — photo by Joseph May

VP-BLK, the Las Vegas Sands B-747SP — photo by Joseph May

This Boeing 747 was recently at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport and it was eye-catching with its name-free livery and somewhat squat appearance. It looks shorter in length with an enlarged tail — almost a caricature.

What was this B-747 and who owns it?

The registration told the tale. As it turns out VP-BLK is a Bermuda registration and the aircraft is owned, as well as operated, by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Yes, this aircraft is a very important customer transport giving readers an insight into how much money, as well as business, is intertwined with gaming.

VP-BLK the Las Vegas Sands B-747SP — photo by Joseph May

Some length reduction was accomplished ahead of the wing on the B-747SP — photo by Joseph May

What about the 747 type? It is a B-747SP with SP standing for Special Performance. Boeing was redesigning their basic 747 to compete with the Lockheed L-1011 and Douglas DC-10 triple engine aircraft when Pan American Airways (always redefining airline paradigms) announced a specification for an aircraft with greater range but less capacity than the current B-747 — essentially triple engine aircraft capacity but longer range than a B-747. Boeing completed the 747 redesign with a range extension gained by reducing weight (shortening the fuselage by nearly 50 ft (15.2m) which also reduced capacity. The center section was reworked and length was removed from both ahead of and aft of the wing. Lighter materials were substituted in the wing with the triple slotted flaps replaced by simpler, and lighter, single slot flaps (also removed were the characteristic underwing canoes which housed part of the mechanism of the triple slotted flaps). Since the empennage was much closer to the center of gravity (CG) it had to be enlarged to provide the control authority required (i.e., closer to the CG then the less leverage exerted) — aided by a double hinged rudder. All up, the weight reduction was in the neighborhood of 45,000 pounds (~20,455kg). The Boeing B-747SP retained the power of a fully sized B-747 yet was impressively lighter which turned it into a bit of a hot rod and what pilot does not wish for a better power to weight ratio?

VP-BLK the Las Vegas Sands B-747SP — photo by Joseph May

The B-747SP has a double hinged rudder which differs from the basic B-747 — photo by Joseph May

Economics came into play which reduced the number of B-747SP requests but the SP continues to serve with smaller airline operations as well as with the SOFIA Project — more on that exciting and important mission in the next post.

There is a site dedicated to the B-747SP, it is quite well done and tracks these aircraft around the world — it can be found at the B747SP Website.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. shortfinals permalink
    23 June 2014 13:18

    When all the DC-10s were grounded, and I was stuck in the US (before I liived here, obviously) I managed to get back to London/Heathrow by grabbing the last seat on an Iran Air 747SP – but that’s another story!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 June 2014 21:17

      Glad that a good memory got jogged loose 😉

  2. 23 June 2014 18:58

    Beautiful aeroplane! As you pointed out, Joe, Pan Am was the launch customer for the Boeing 747SP in 1976 – as it was with so many types over its 64-year history – and this “Casino High-Roller” might have flown originally with the PAA fleet… Clipper Flight 50 was a historic ’round-the-world 747SP trip to celebrate the airline’s 50th anniversary in 1977. After departure from San Francisco it circled the globe in just over 54 hours with only 3 stopovers, in London, Cape Town, and Auckland. That record-breaking flight also passed over both the North Pole and the South Pole! “Thanks For The Memories”

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 June 2014 21:20

      Always good to learn from you David. Flight 50 would have been such a great flight to catch — I especially like the idea of overflying both of the poles. Wednesday there will be post on a re-purposed former PAA Boeing 747SP that has a valuable mission.

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