N536PA. Boeing 747SP-21. c/n 21441-306.


 

The sixth 747SP to join the Pan Am fleet was ordered on December 09, 1976. This was the seventeenth Boeing 747SP to be built. It was rolled out at Boeing's Everett plant on April 07, 1977 fitted with Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A engines. Entered onto the United States Aircraft Register as N536PA it took to the air for the first time on April 25, 1977.

 

Accepted by Pan Am at Paine Field on May 06, 1977 the aircraft was named 'Clipper Lindbergh'. The official christening ceremony was performed by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's widow to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his trans-Atlantic record breaking flight. The aircraft was configured to seat 18 First Class, 62 Business Class and 164 Economy Class passengers.

 

It was immediately deployed on Pan Am's Pacific routes. An alarming incident occurred on January 11, 1985 when a fire warning light was activated in the aft cargo compartment. The crew made an emergency landing at Fairbanks, Alaska but the warning proved to be a false alarm, to everyone's relief.

 

Pan Am sold its entire Pacific Division (routes and aircraft) to United Airlines in April 1985 for $US 750,000,000 in an attempt to deal with its dire financial problems. Ownership of 'Clipper Lindbergh' was transferred to United on February 13, 1986. Retaining its current registration it was prrssed into United service with the existing Pan Am cheat line and an all-white tail. It was reregistered as N145UA on November 01, 1986. By January 1989 it had been repainted in the United 'rainbow' livery with small company titles on the forward fuselage. Retaining the old 'rainbow' livery it had acquired the larger 'United' titles by August 1990. By July 01, 1993 this was the only 747SP to acquire the new United blue-grey livery.

 

N145UA, now named 'Malevolent Skies' operated its final revenue service when it flew Washington Dulles International to San Francisco as UA59 on October 20, 1994. This was also the last commercial service flown in the United States by a 747SP. It was then ferried to Las Vegas where it was retired and stored.

 

It was ferried Las Vegas - San Francisco in the basic United livery on February 17, 1997 where it underwent a complete overhaul prior to its sale to NASA. Formally sold to NASA on October 27, 1997 it was granted a new certificate of airworthiness in the 'Experimental' class on November 19, 1997. It was then ferried to Waco, Texas where it was paint stripped and the telescope for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) was installed. As this 98 inch telescope required cutting new holes in the pressure cabin it had to undergo new cabin pressurisation testing to 12.5 psi which were completed on April 25, 2004.

 

The Boeing 747SP was chosen for this airborne observatory role to carry astronomers, educators and students to the edge of the stratosphere due to its ability to maintain altitudes of between 41,000 and 45,000 feet. This allowed it to climb to the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere well above the distortion created by the air's density at lower altitudes, particularly on our planet's surface. Its proven speed and extended range capabilities would enable it to fly almost anywhere in the world quickly allowing scientists to observe and record important cosmic events.

 

It was rolled out of the hangar wearing the new tail logo on April 01, 2005 but the aircraft was not ready for flight. Registered N747NA it was rolled out at Waco in the new NASA / SOFIA livery at a small ceremony on September 25, 2006. It took to the air for the first time in over ten years on April 26, 2007 and was officially renamed 'Clipper Lindbergh' at a special ceremony at Edwards Air Force Base on May 21, 2007. The aircraft was ferried to NASA Dryden where it underwent the installation of systems to support its new roll as an airborne observatory platform and their testing for the next three years.

 

It is one of the few active Boeing 747SPs from the 45 airframes built in the 1970s.

 


 

N536PA. Pan Am - in the original livery at Sydney Airport, September 1979.
N536PA. Pan Am - in the original livery at Sydney Airport, September 1979.

N536PA. Pan Am - in the original livery at Sydney Airport, October 1979.

N536PA. Pan Am - in the original livery at Zurich Airport, April 1985.
N536PA. United - in the interim livery at San Francisco Airport, May 1987.

N145UA. United - in the standard livery at Tokyo Narita Airport, August 1992.

N145UA. United - in the standard livery at Melbourne Airport, November 1992.
N145UA. United Airlines - in the new livery at an unknown airport, August 1993.
N145UA. United Airlines - in the new livery at San Francisco Airport, February 1994.

N145UA. NASA - in the basic United livery at Las Vegas Airport, October 1995.

N145UA. NASA DARA - in the basic United livery at San Francisco Airport, April 1998.

N747NA. NASA Sofia - in the standard livery at Stuttgart Airport, September 2011.

N747NA. NASA Sofia - in the standard livery at Stuttgart Airport, September 2011.
N747NA. NASA Sofia - in the standard livery at Christchurch Airport, June 2016.
N747NA. NASA Sofia - in the standard livery at Christchurch Airport, June 2016.