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Doing a little doodling on flightradar24.com and Wikipedia, I saw that all the versions on the Boeing 747 except for the -300 version are used. Why is the Boeing 747-300 not used even though it is newer than the -100, -200, and SP versions?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

The 747-300 was somewhat of a cross between -200 and SP. The -300 was almost same as the -200 except for the increased length of the hump. The -300 was never a success and was soon overshadowed by the -400.

The 747SP was the result of a requirement for longer range aircraft. Boeing engineers basically cut around 47' from the 747 fuselage in SP. However, by the time it flew for the first time, commercial air travel had changed (in no small part due to the high oil prices) and the model never sold as much as Boeing had hoped. However, when it was observed that there were no adverse effects when the rear of the cockpit lined up with the front of the wing, Boeing introduced the 747-300 with increased length of the hump with little else in terms of major change from -200.

However, just two years after -300 was introduced, Boeing introduced the -400, which was a significant improvement- it eliminated the flight engineer, increased range among others, while retaining the -300's hump (which meant more economy seats). 747-400 is the most successful model of the series, with more than 690 orders. Most airlines jumped straight to the -400, effectively killing the -300.

Actually, the 747-200 production (with over 390 made) ended after the -300 version (of which only 81 were made). So they are more of contemporaries.

Also, it'll be a stretch to call that the older 747 versions are still in passenger service. 747-100 is not flown with passengers anymore, current operations of 747SP hardly qualify as passenger service and the most successful of these, the 747-200s are also being slowly phased out, if you discount the VC-25s flying around with US President (which are slated to be replaced by 747-8s).

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2  
Air Force One is designated a VC-25 by the Air Force, and a 747-200B by Boeing. – Mark Jan 10 at 21:09
    
The VC-25s are also being phased out. They recently decided to replace them with 747-8s. – reirab Jan 10 at 21:38
5  
And, yes, it is quite the stretch to say that the pre -400 747s are still in passenger service. Most airlines retired them long ago. Indeed, many airlines are now retiring the -400s. Delta plans to have all of theirs retired by 2017, for example. Sadly, they're replacing them with twins and not 747-8s. Aside from perhaps their charter fleets (on which I have no experience,) those 14 seats upstairs on the 747s are the best seats on Delta's entire fleet, IMO. It feels like a private jet (at least until you walk down stairs and see the other 362 passengers.) – reirab Jan 10 at 21:43
    
@Mark Thanks for pointing out the mistake. I've corrected it. – aeroalias Jan 10 at 23:48
    
Just to add a little detail to the already good @aeroalias answer, former 742 operators also had the option to stretch the upper deck of their planes, as reported here: airlinereporter.com/2012/02/… – Marco Sanfilippo Jan 11 at 9:58

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