Currently on its way to Los Angeles and due to land at 7.50pm UK time today, Qantas are flying the much-loved jumbo for the final time. But not before a final series of incredible manoeuvres…
The final Boeing 747 operated by Australian flag carrier Qantas has departed Sydney/Kingsford Smith on its way to the Mojave Desert for retirement.
The aircraft, VH-OEJ (c/n 32914) took off at around 3.30pm local time and is currently airborne crossing the Pacific Ocean – it is due to arrive in Los Angeles at 10.50am local time to clear customs before it departs to the desert.
Following its take-off, the widebody conducted two passes of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, first in a westerly direction before turning around for a final flyby on an easterly course.
In a fitting tribute to the type’s nearly 50 years of operation with the carrier, once out over the ocean QF7474 drew a kangaroo in the sky, which can be seen by the trace it left behind on flight tracking apps.
Over the last couple of weeks, Qantas has been conducting a series of farewell flights. Taking off at Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane – the three one-hour ‘joy flights’ gave avid fans the opportunity to fly on the Jumbo before its retirement.
The widebody joined the airline in July 2003 and since March 23 this year, has been in storage at Sydney because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flag carrier first took delivery of a 747 on October 21, 1971 when it accepted VH-EBC (c/n 20011). Since then, Qantas has operated a total of 65 examples including the -100 to -400 series and the shortened SP variant.
Qantas 747s have been at the forefront of numerous important milestones for the airline, including the first business class cabin of any airline in the world. Their size, range and reliability meant they were also used for many rescue missions over the years.
Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO said the 747 changed the face of Australian aviation and ushered in a new era of lower fares and non-stop flights.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact that the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia. It replaced the 707, which was a huge leap forward in itself but didn’t have the sheer size and scale to lower airfares the way the 747 did. That put international travel within reach of the average Australian and people jumped at the opportunity,” Joyce said.
Sharelle Quinn, Qantas’s first female Captain is in command of the final flight and said the aircraft has a very special place in the hearts of not just airline staff, but aviation enthusiasts and travellers alike.
“It has been a wonderful part of our history, a truly ground breaking aircraft and while we are sad to see our last one go, it’s time to hand over to the next generation of aircraft that are a lot more efficient,” Quinn added.
Captain Quinn and crew are flying to Los Angeles with a full cargo hold of freight before the aircraft’s final sector to the Mojave.