The SOFIA Boeing 747SP
SOFIA aircraft is a Boeing 747SP with
a distinguished history. It was originally acquired by Pan American
World Airways and was delivered in May of 1977. The "SP" designates
that this is a special short-body version of the 747, designed
for longer flights than the original -100 series of the Boeing 747.
Although Pan Am typically named its aircraft after
famous clipper ships, they gave this aircraft a special name - the
Clipper Lindbergh - in honor of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.
Lindbergh's widow, Ann Morrow Lindbergh, personally christened the
aircraft and officially placed it into service on May 6th, 1977-the
50th anniversary of his history-making first solo flight from New
York to Paris in 1927.
In February 1986, United Airlines purchased the plane.
United removed it from active service in December 1995, and it was
purchased by NASA in 1997. The aircraft was substantially modified
for its new role as a flying astronomical observatory by L-3 Communications
Integrated Systems of Waco, Texas. To ensure proper modification,
a dismantled section from another 747SP was used as a full-size
On April 26, 2007, SOFIA again flew the skies over Waco, Texas during its first test flight; it was subsequently flown to Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base for continued flight testing, and was rededicated on May 21, 2007, by Erik Lindbergh.
On January 14, 2007, at the end of its closed-door flight testing, SOFIA briefly visited Ames Research Center before continuing on to its permanent flight operations home at the new DFRC-operated Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California.
Page Last Updated:
January 28, 2009