A while back after I blogged a photo of a Pan Am Boeing 747-200 taking off at Seattle, an ex-pilot that flew for Pan Am emailed me and thought the registration number had to be wrong. He remembered quite clearly that N724PA was not for a 747, but it belonged to a Boeing 707-300 that flew for Pan Am. This was curious for me, since when I looked up photos of aircraft belonging to N724PA there was a photo of a Boeing 707 in Alaska Airlines livery. It is common for airlines to re-use registration numbers, but I felt a story involving a Pan Am Boeing 747 and 707 used by Alaska needed to be told.
It turns out he was right. N724PA a Boeing 707-300, which Pan Am called “Clipper Mercury,” went into service on December 8, 1959 and served Pan Am well, until 1971. Mercury was leased to GE, then Donaldson International Airways until being leased to Alaska Airlines for the summer of 1972. After Alaska’s lease was up it went back to Donaldson and the registration number was changed from N724PA to G-BAEL.
When Mercury’s registration number was changed, it allowed Pan Am to “re-use” the number and register a new aircraft. When Pan Am got a Boeing 747-200 in 1984 from Sinapore Airlines, they gave her the name “Clipper Fairwind” and the registration number N724PA, which previously belonged to the Boeing 707.
I can’t find where the Boeing 747 ended up, but based photos taken in 2005, I am guessing she is no longer flying (can anyone else confirm that?).
So, that explains the confusion of the registration numbers, but left me wondering why the heck Alaska was flying a Boeing 707 for only one summer. For that answer you will have to wait until tomorrow!
Thanks Nick Y for pointing this out!
Also check out:
* Photos of Fairwind Clipper Boeing 747 through the years on Airliners.net