Qantas bids farewell to their final Boeing 747

The final Boeing 747 in the Qantas fleet departed from Sydney International Airport (SYD) on Wednesday, July 22nd, officially marking the end of almost five decades as part of the Qantas fleet, after the iconic aircraft was withdrawn from service in late March.

Qantas Boeing 747-400 registered VH-OEH has been stored at Mojave since the 20th May 2020. Photo by Chris Phan | AeroNewsX

The Australian carrier decided to accelerate the 'Queen of the Skies' retirement by a couple of months and the final flight on Wednesday afternoon will mark an end of almost fifty-years of the Boeing 747 being part of the Qantas fleet. The Australian flag carrier ordered their first jumbo jet in 1967 and received it in August of 1971 from Boeing’s Everett factory, in Washington State. That same year the airline’s first 747-200B conducted a tour of Australia and initially featured a Captain Cook Lounge on the upper deck for first-class passengers. Their first 747-200B entered service in September of 1971 and from then on the airline would go on to operate almost every Boeing 747 variant. This final flight comes as the 747 aircraft was only one year and one month short of celebrating of its fifty-year anniversary as part of the Qantas fleet

Some of the different Boeing 747 variants that Qantas have operated over the years include the 747 Combi, the 747SP and the 747-300 (which had an extended upper deck). Additionally, Qantas operated the 747-400. Ultimately, the 747‑400ER (Extended Range) will be the final Boeing 747 aircraft operated by Qantas. Over the course of approximately fifty years, the Australian carrier has operated a total of 65 Boeing 747s, taking delivery of 57 new 747’s directly from Boeing. The airline even purchased an additional three 747-400s second-hand while also operating five 747s on lease at various different stages.

Qantas Boeing 747-400 registered VH-OEG has been stored at Mojave since the 10th April 2020. Photo by Ernest Leung | AeroNewsX

Last week, Qantas conducted three “farewell jumbo joy flights” using their Boeing 747-400ER, registered VH-OEJ. The jumbo jet which was delivered to the Australian airline back in 2003 has over seventeen years of service. According to the airline all the profits made by the three one hour farewell flights “will be donated to the HARS Aviation Museum at Albion Park (Wollongong) and the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach to support their efforts to preserve and promote the 747 legacy for future generations.”

Qantas 747 Fleet Captain, Owen Weaver said: “The 747 has been a magnificent aircraft and it’s fitting that we celebrate the end of five decades of history-making moments for the national carrier and aviation in Australia.” He added that “there is an enormous amount of nostalgia and affection associated with our 747.”

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas said: “The 747 for us, it has been part of our history and it has been an amazing aircraft for the Qantas Group.” He continued by saying: “For probably most Australians, it is the aircraft that they’ve used to experience their first trip overseas and for immigrants coming in here, it is probably the first aircraft that they came and experienced Australia on.” Alan Joyce who is originally from Dublin, Ireland even joked about by stating: “In fact, in the early 1990s it was the first aircraft I took to come here to Australia so it actually has personal significance for me too.”

Back in May of 2018, the airline announced that they were ordering the new and more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. During that announcement, Alan Joyce paid tribute to the Boeing 747 saying, “The jumbo has been the backbone of Qantas International for more than 40 years and we’ve flown almost every type that Boeing built.” He added that: “Over the years, each new version of the 747 allowed Qantas to fly further and improve what we offered passengers. The Dreamliners are now doing the same thing.”

The news of the iconic Boeing 747 leaving the Qantas fleet isn’t really a shock in the context of the 2018 announcement. Instead, it is a reflection on the reality that the future will be narrow-body aircraft. Qantas has already received some Dreamliners in anticipation of the 747’s retirement this year. As of this moment, the Australian carrier currently has 11 Dreamliners and will be expecting to have 14 red-tailed Dreamliners in total. With the news of the Boeing 747 leaving the Qantas fleet, questions still remain regarding their Airbus A380s. In their post COVID-Recovery plan, Qantas outlined in their statement that there is still “significant uncertainty as to when flying levels will support its 12 Airbus A380s.” The carrier added that “these assets will be idle for the foreseeable future, which represents a significant percentage of their remaining useful life.”

The final Qantas 747 was scheduled to depart Sydney International Airport (SYD) on July 22nd at approximately 14:00 local time. The ‘Queen of the Skies’ finally took off at 15:30 local time and then commenced a flyby over Sydney Harbour and Central Business District. The aircraft which was given the callsign QFA7474 then flew along the eastern suburb beaches concluding with a flyover at HARS Aviation Museum. The crew of the final Qantas Boeing 747 finished off the flyover by drawing the Qantas logo in the sky just east of Sydney. After completing the Qantas logo, the Boeing 747 continued on to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) before flying to its final destination the Mojave Desert (MHV) in the United States for storage.

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