The Boeing 747, commonly called the Jumbo Jet, is one of the most recognizable modern jet airliners and is the largest airliner currently in airline service. First flown commercially in 1970, it held the size record for more than 35 years, although it has been surpassed by the Airbus A380 (due to enter service in late 2006). The Soviet-built Antonov An-225, a transport, remains the world's largest aircraft in service, while the Hughes H-4 Hercules had a larger wing-span.
The four-engine 747, produced by Boeing Commercial Aircraft, uses a two-deck configuration. A typical three-class layout accommodates 416 passengers, while a two-class layout accommodates a maximum of 524 passengers. The hump created by the upper deck has made the 747 a highly recognizable icon of air travel. By February 2006, a total of 1430 aircraft have been built or ordered in various 747 configurations, making it a very profitable product for Boeing.
The 747SP, or "Special Performance," was first delivered in 1976. The SP was developed to target two market requirements. The first was to offer a smaller model to compete with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011, while maintaining commonality with the larger standard 747s. The 747 was simply too big for many routes, and Boeing did not have a mid-sized widebody to compete in the segment of the market that the DC-10 and L-1011 had created. The second market requirement was the emerging ultra long-range routes which were emerging in the mid-1970s. This required not only a longer range, but a higher cruising speed. Boeing could not afford to develop an all-new design, so instead it shortened the 747 and re-optimized it for speed and range at the expense of capacity.
Apart from having a shorter fuselage, the 747SP differs from other 747 variants in having a larger tail surface and simpler wing flap system. The 747SP uses a larger single-piece flaps on the trailing edges (other 747s use triple flaps). The SP could typically only accommodate 220 passengers in a 3-class cabin, but could fly over 6500 mi (10461 km) at speeds of up to 610 mph (981.7 km/h). Some airline insiders call it the "74 Short" or "Baby Jumbo" because of its shortened fuselage, and stubby appearance. Originally designated 747SB (standing for Short Body), Boeing later changed the production designation to 747SP, reflecting the aircraft's longer range and faster cruise speed.