747SP Flight Covers

Over the years, many significant events have been celebrated with the issuance of special commemorative postage stamps, postcards and envelopes.  These events range from Olympic games, to Worlds Fairs, to Presidential Inaugurations.

Unique among these are letters that are carried on specific and significant aircraft flights.  Known as “flight covers,” these letters are carried onboard the actual flight they commemorate, and are hand cancelled with the date of the flight.

The “original” SP flight cover, from the maiden SP flight on July 4, 1975.
These were made available to Boeing employees for purchase at 25 cents each.
Chaz Hinkle collection

Because of it’s frequent history-making flights, a number of flight covers have been produced featuring the 747SP.
In fact, the earliest flight cover featuring the 747SP is from
it’s very first flight on July 4, 1975.  That flight carried a special cache of hand cancelled letters in the cargo hold, commemorating the type’s maiden flight.  After the flight was over, the letters were made available for sale to Boeing employees for 25 cents each.

Pan Am - New York - Tokyo
First flight cover commemorating the first regularly scheduled passenger
service from New York to Tokyo, dated 26 April, 1976.
Chaz Hinkle Collection

Particularly prolific in their production of flight covers were Pan Am and South African Airways.  Both airlines frequently carried a cache of flight covers whenever opening a new and particularly long distance route.
Pan Am produced a flight cover to commemorate its first non-stop passenger service from Los Angeles to Tokyo on April 25, 1976.

One of the few covers that identifies the specific aircraft on
which it flew… In this case Clipper Liberty Bell (N533PA).
Chaz Hinkle Collection

Just a few days later Pam Am would produce another cover, this one going around the world on the historic flight of N533PA from New York – Delhi – Bangkok – Tokyo – New York.
It was at this point that Pan Am was very aware of the record breaking abilities of the SP and took every opportunity to demonstrate the plane’s “long legs.”

SAA produced its first flight cover even before the 747SP flew in scheduled service for the airline.  ZS-SPA carried a cache of flight covers on it’s long distance delivery flight from
Everett to Cape Town on 23-24 March, 1976.  The 747SP opened many new long
distance routes for the airlines, and there are any number of flight covers
commemorating these flights.

Delivery flight of ZS-SPA
Kemp-air flight cover #27a: Delivery flight of ZS-SPA, March, 1976.
Note the postmark is a week after the actual flight.
Courtesy: Terrence Devine


Kemp-air flight cover #30: April 1, 1976.Note how these Kemp-air covers bear a striking resemblance to the cover issued by Boeing for the inaugural SP flight.
Courtesy: Terrence Devine

SAA flight cover #10: Johannesburg to Frankfurt, August 3, 1976.
Chaz Hinkle Collection


The 747SP probably affected the flight offerings of no airline more profoundly
than SAA.This cover pays tribute to the start of service to JFK.
Chaz Hinkle Collection

Postmarked November 5 and 6 of 1976, this cover commemorates 747SP service to Vienna.
Chaz Hinkle Collection


First scheduled passenger flight from Cape Town to London
Dated April 1st of 1977, this letter flew on board the first scheduled passenger flight from Cape Town to London…
Chaz Hinkle Collection


Chaz Hinkle Collection
…Followed up the next day by this one heading the other direction…
from London back to Cape Town.
Chaz Hinkle Collection

Other airlines producing covers include United and Iran Air.  All told, there were around a dozen or so flight covers produced that specifically commemorated the 747SP by name.
Obviously, it’s unlikely any more will be produced at this point as the 747SP is in the twilight of it’s life.

Johannesburg to Sydney, January 6, 1977
Johannesburg to Sydney, January 6, 1977.Chaz Hinkle Collection


First Flight Cover:  Buenos Aires, December 3, 1978...
South African Airways First Flight Cover: Buenos Aires, December 3, 1978
Courtesy: Terrence Devine


…And the return flight the following day.
Courtesy: Terrence Devine

South African Airways B747SP Johannesburg – Buenos Aires
Another commemorative South America cover, signed by the flight crew: June 6, 1982.
Courtesy: Terrence Devine

Namib Air Windhoek to Frankfurt inaugural, April 25, 1990
Perhaps the last SP flight cover ever issued,
Namib Air Windhoek to Frankfurt inaugural, April 25, 1990.
Courtesy Trevor Abbott

If you have a 747SP flight cover you’d like to share on this page, please CONTACT US to make arrangements for posting!

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