The Boeing 747 revolutionized aviation, making long-haul travel more accessible to the masses. While the passenger version is well-known, a lesser-known variant, the 747 Combi, offered a unique blend of passenger capacity and cargo transportation. Let's dive into the world of the 747 Combi and explore its features and history.
Boeing introduced the 747 Combi to meet the needs of airlines wanting to transport both passengers and cargo. The first official Combi was the 747-200M, equipped with a rear side-loading cargo door and a movable partition in the cabin. This allowed for up to 238 passengers in a three-class configuration.
Following the success of the 747-200M, Boeing developed the 747-300M, which featured a side cargo door and an extended upper deck. This variant provided even more space for passengers while still accommodating cargo at the rear.
The best-selling 747-400, launched in 1989, also had a Combi version. With a large cargo door and a partition separating passengers and goods, the 747-400M offered airlines the flexibility to transport both passengers and freight.
Several airlines operated the Combi versions of the earlier 747-100 as well. Although Boeing did not produce these directly, they were conversions from passenger variants. These modified aircraft had a side cargo door and a bulkhead separator.
While the Combi 747s were popular with some airlines, their sales figures were relatively low compared to other variants of the family. KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, and other carriers utilized the Combi jumbos extensively. However, by the start of 2020, only 10 747 Combis remained in operation worldwide, with KLM being the primary operator.
Unfortunately, due to their age and inefficiency, KLM planned to retire their remaining Combis by the end of 2021. The events of 2020 accelerated this process, and by October of that year, the last of the Combi Queens had left the fleet.
While the era of the 747 Combi may be over, the idea of its potential resurgence is intriguing. If there is a demand for a balance of passengers and freight to certain destinations, it is possible that carriers operating the 747-8i could convert their aircraft into Combis. However, for now, these unique aircraft have disappeared from the skies, leaving behind a legacy of flexibility and versatility in the world of aviation.