The number 5 on the steps refers to aircraft line number 5, which was N93101. At the time, it was still in the test flight program, and did not have a fully furnished interior; note the bare passenger door above Ernie, Les and Des. Also, the word EXPERIMENTAL can be seen next to the number 1 door.

The 5 on the steps refers to aircraft line number 5, which was N93101. At the time, it was still in the test flight program, and did not have a fully furnished interior; note the bare passenger door.

N93101 was first delivered to Trans World Airlines (TWA)  in August 1970 after her first flight on July 13, 1969. She was the fifth Boeing 747 to be produced and the first to be delivered to TWA. The airline celebrated that this was their first Jumbo Jet with painting a “5” on the front of the aircraft.

The 747-100 didn’t stay in service with TWA for long. It was sold to the Iran Air Force in March 1975 (reg#: 5-280) and has been in service with the Iran Air Force (reg changed to 5-8101)and Iran Air (reg#: EP-NHV) until 1985. After that, she has flown only for the Iranian Air Force.

This aircraft is special, since not only was it the first of 30 Boeing 747’s operated by TWA, it is also the oldest flying Boeing 747 flying today. This amazing aircraft has been flying for about 41.5 years.

The Iran Air Force has quite the Boeing 747-100 collection. They also have aircraft numbers 8 and 9 (both with similar histories to aircraft #5) with a total of seven actively flying Boeing 747-100’s.

Now, I am not a big history buff, but the idea that Iran was able to get quite a few almost-new Boeing 747-100’s only five years after they were delivered seems like there might be more to the story. Anyone have some thoughts?

Click the registration numbers above for additional photographs. This is the newest photo of the 747 I can find, taken in December 2010. Thanks to MK for pointing this airplane out to me.

Image: DCS Almuni of TWA

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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Maybe we threw in a couple of 747’s to get the deal done?

It was several years before the Iranian Revolution in 1979 – so relations between the two countries were still good at that time.

The west-friendly Shah was still in power and always threw lots of money around. There are still F-14s and F15s in service w/ the Iranian AF (although spare parts aren’t easy to find).


They do not have F-15’s. Maybe you
meant F-5’s, Jeff?

George Prater, LCDR ret Navy, TWA kid KCMO, Saudia 5 yrs

TWA had long started airlines like Saudia, Ethiopian, and many in Europe. 10,000 TWA employees had lived in Saudi Arabia over the years for instance from DC3’s to L1011 and 747’s. I was off the approach end at my school recess the day that first TWA 747 came to MCI near Kansas City at the overhaul base. All of us just about had dads working at the airline and watched it in awe. 6 months later I was on it in the front row going to Saudi Arabia for 5 year assignment my dad took. TWA often sold planes to other airlines. the 707’s that had sraps on their skin from stress went to EL AL for instance. No one ever bought the convair 880’s and they were shreded after I had grown up to be a navy pilot and saw them when home on leave. My dad had 45 years total with TWA and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Iran had a “few” in disrepair of the 80 or so f14’s flying when I was a young LT in the straight of hormuz and the airbus got shot down by Vincennes. The photo recon was mostly their mission (doubt they had TARPS) They had F4’s and F14’s, my ops officer had his hand in the safe burning documents as a flight instructor there when the shah fell. They did not have 15’s as I recall, the Saudis do as our ally and they had lightnings before that with british mercenary pilots.

Probably none of the shah era f14’s had any weapons capability since the Phoenix missile was not provided and a Rockwell variant was, and sidewinders and guns won’t work against a ship it is anti air only. This spare parts issue for supplying them did led to ITAR and the US Munitions list violations with many persona non grata’s being created over the years on the STATE DEPT banned forever list for export violations. F14’s could not drop bombs anyway until almost their retirement from the US Navy F14A+’s etc we called it the bomb-kitty vs tomcat or tom-kitty. The reports the day of the airliner incident mixed up signals from the ground and what actually took off if you read the messages that day. A mixed airfield for military and commercial was always dangerous in a Straight due to international flight and shipping rules. Also aegis in auto auto mode was dangerous since the montgomery more analog told them not to take the track.

Hey George, thanks so much for the additional details and personel connection.


Just read all this interesting info!Thanks.I’ve wondered about those ex-TWA’s flying with the Iranian Air Force. Judging by the info and photo’s on the net,those classic 747s are in very good hands. I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all, but wasn’t that big number 5 painted on the fuselage of N93101 because it was #5 off the line,and one of the 5 test planes at Boeing??(rather than being painted on as a celebration for TWA’s first 747).

There is a tail-scrape test video on You-Tube of Pan Am’s N747PA, which has a big #2 painted on the side of it.(Line number 2,which sadly was scrapped as a run-down, abandoned restaurant in Korea last year).N7470,the very first one built,also has a #1 on it.

There were 5 test 747’s that comprised the FAA Test inventory. The TWA airplane was the 5th on the line up at the Everett assembly plant. The other four planes were painted in PAA colors. R0003 was damaged when it landed a the Renton airport. I’ll skip the gory details but the starboard wing gear caught on the north seawall and the gear rammed back into the wing flaps and flap track supports. My connection with all five planes amounted to being one of the laison engineers responsible for the refurb effort. Before that I had several test flights on r0005(twa) where we determined the coffin corners of those PW engines. We climbed to 55 thousand and shut of an engine. Set the engine up for restart fuel and ignition on and did a rapid decent. At about 50 thousand the engine started and it sounded like the whole plane exploded! Both flights tests were conducted at night.The big backfire also caused a very bright flash inside the cabin which cause my whole life to flash as well. When an airplane was totally refurbed it would fly to Boeing field for airline acceptance. Our crew would climb up to the roof of the Renton assembly plant and witness the take off. In a lot of ways this was very memorable since we all worked so hard to make this project a success.

don meade

Having worked for Alcoa and many years as a consultant to Boeing and the USAF, back in the 1950s through the early 1970s, I met lots of folks who worked on development of Boeing aircraft and missile programs. The original 747s were extremely over design weight targets, and had to be reduced over 100K Lbs. As I remember, TWA and PANAM had weight limitation built into contracts and Boeing did a big ‘sweat’ program to make it right. In the meantime, the Shah had all the gas in the world and took the heavies off TWA’s plate as he ramped up Iranian Airlines.

The fog of time and age creep into my recollection, but even Howard Hughes may have entered into the TWA side of the deal.

Retro Rulz

Worked in Iran for Boeing at that time. Some of the 747’s were converted to refueling tankers,IIAF KC-747. I lost friends in the tragic crash of one in Spain. Look it up, too many details for here.
I must give kudos to the Iranian engineers and techs that have keep them in the air for so long. With embargoes on, don’t even want to know how they got parts.

I will have to agree.I personally have worked on all 747 models built to this day.I agree that they deserve the the credit for keeping those whales in the air.As a mechanic in today’s world were everything is accessible to me.And manuals at the click of a button.still tuff don’t know how they did during hard political times.

I wonder what the Ayatollah thinks each time he sees those planes sitting on the runway. He hates our country, so surely it has to be a kick in the gonads to his pride seeing them there; the most American of Planes.

Bob Cass

Did the aircraft fly with the number 5 on both side so of the fuselage? What about the black and white checker on the side was thus both sides ?

Angelo Patrizio

I was there when TWA sold a number of aircraft to Iran. I”m not sure if the logic was for capacity reasons or cash flow reasons. Or who knows what? From what I recall they soon bought most of them back. The maintenance record keeping was poor to non existent. And the returned aircraft became a huge task to bring the records up to FAA standards to place these back into service. I even checked to see if 93119 TWA F800 was one in this group. It might have provided an explanation of what might have gone wrong.

John Rennie

Due to TWA financial troubles, on February 1st 1975 TWA announced the sale to the Iranian Government of six of its 19 Boeing 747 jumbo jets for a price of $99″million. U.S.
The transaction was believed to be the largest used”plane sale on record up to that time. The Iranians were also negotiating at that same date for a further six TWA Jumbos. (747)

Iran Air had bought ex PanAm 707 in the past too so it was not uncommon. Iran Air were one of the original customers for the 747SP which solved their Tehran New York route. I flew on these 747SP from London to Tehran regularly. Iran Air didn’t operate any 747 100’s so I think its safe to assume all of the 747 100’s sold to Iran ended up in the Imperial Iranian Airforce IIAF.
The Imperial Iranian Airforce IIAF obtained most of these older 747 to convert into KC747 refueling airforce aircraft and troop transport. which they are used for today in the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force IRIAF. The Shah had inquired and offered to put the money up to Lockheed to restart the C-5 Galaxy line, but this for some reason was stopped. The uplift capability he was seeking for his airforce was obviously helped with the acquisition of these Jumbos.

I am amazed at the amazement from everyone, about how well the Iranian engineer’s have done to keep them flying! The Iranians are a very educated intelligent race of people. They have had to keep these aircraft flying and have done, as expected a very good job. Lets be honest we all know even with an embargo on spear parts, anyone can obtain any spare parts for a price.
What is amazing is how they have reengineered their F-5E “Kowsar” and the converted F-5 into a twin tail version the HESA “Saeqeh”. However what is truly amazing is how they have continued to operate and fly their F-14 swing wing fighters. This is even after all F-14’s have been disbanded from the USAF inventory, and any F-14 in a museum, static display, bone yard, or other, have been totally stripped and the mechanical components that operate the swing wing technology destroyed for ever!
This is truly amazing and a testament to the Iranian tenacity and ingenuity.

Miguel Santos

Hello from Portugal

In the late 70`s there was an IIAF 747 passing through Lisbon, Portugal. I still recall seeing that 747 parked for quite some days in ramp foxtrot. It was a rare sighting as until then no recorded IIAF a/c had transited Lisbon, at least that I know of. Wonder if any of our readers can shine some light about this particular a/c. I have the impression this was most likely a delivery flight to the IIAF. A/c ID and details would be appreciated.

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