QANTAS Airways made this announcement:
QANTAS will today (July 22) mark the end of an era with the departure of the national carrier’s last Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
The final Boeing 747-400 in the fleet (registration VH-OEJ) (above) will depart Sydney at 2 pm as flight number QF7474, bringing to an end five decades of history-making moments for the national carrier and aviation in Australia.
QANTAS took delivery of its first 747 (a -200 series) in August 1971, the same year that William McMahon became Prime Minister, the first McDonalds opened in Australia and Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool topped the music charts. Its arrival – and its economics – made international travel possible for millions of people for the first time.
The fleet of 747 aircraft not only carried generations of Australians on their first overseas adventures, they also offered a safe voyage for hundreds of thousands of migrant families who flew to their new life in Australia on board a ‘roo tailed jumbo jet.
Above Photo: QANTAS. In the 1990s QANTAS commissioned two striking Indigenous liveries for 747s as part of its Flying Art Series. The Nalanji Dreaming livery (front) featured on VH-EBU, with Wunala Dreaming (behind) adorning two 747s (VH-OJB and VH-OEJ).
QANTAS 747s were at the forefront of a number of important milestones for the airline, including the first Business Class cabin of any airline in the world. Their size, range and incredible reliability meant they were used for numerous rescue missions: flying a record 674 passengers out of Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy; evacuating Australians out of Cairo during political unrest in 2011 and flying medical supplies in and tourists home from the Maldives and Sri Lanka following the Boxing Day Tsunami in December 2004.
The last rescue missions the 747 flew for QANTAS were to bring hundreds of stranded Australians home from the COVID-19 epicenter of Wuhan in February this year.
QANTAS brought forward the scheduled retirement of the fleet by six months after the COVID-19 pandemic decimated international travel globally.
QANTAS has flown six different types of the 747, with Boeing increasing the aircraft’s size, range and capability over the years with the advent of new technology and engine types.
QANTAS’s first female Captain, Sharelle Quinn, will be in command of the final flight and said the aircraft has a very special place in the hearts of not just QANTAS staff, but aviation enthusiasts and travelers alike.
Captain Quinn and crew will fly the 747 to Los Angeles with a full cargo hold of freight before its final sector to the Mojave.
VH-OEJ is scheduled to depart Sydney at 2.00 pm. Weather permitting, it will do a flyby of Sydney Harbour, CBD and northern and eastern suburbs beaches as well as a low level overfly of HARS Museum (Albion Park) where it will dip the wings in a final farewell to QANTAS’ first 747-400, VH-OJA, which is preserved there.
The aircraft will then head out over the Pacific Ocean, as the sun sets on a 50-year love affair with Australians and their beloved Queen of The Skies.
Flight number: QF7474
Aircraft registration: VH-OEJ
Aircraft name: Wunala
Year delivered: 2003 (30th July)
- The first QANTAS 747-238 was VH-EBA, named City of Canberra and the first ever QANTAS 747 flight was on September 17, 1971 from Sydney to Singapore (via Melbourne), carrying 55 first class and 239 economy passengers.
- In almost 50 years of service, the QANTAS Boeing 747 fleet of aircraft has flown over 3.6 billion kilometers, the equivalent of 4,700 return trips to the moon or 90,000 times around the world.
- QANTAS operated a total number of 65 747 aircraft including the 747-100, 747-200, 747SP, 747-300, 747-400 and the 747-400ER and each had specific capabilities such as increased thrust engines and increased take-off weight to allow longer range operations.
- The 747SP was the first 747 model that allowed nonstop operations across the Pacific in 1984 which meant travelers no longer had to “hop” their way across the Pacific and could fly from Australia to the west coast of the US nonstop. The 747-400 which QANTAS operated from 1989 opened up the US west coast cities nonstop, and one-stop to European capitals.
- In 1979, QANTAS became the first airline to operate an all Boeing 747 fleet.
- The 747 also broke records, including in 1989 when QANTAS crew flew a world first nonstop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. That thirty-year record was only broken in 2019 when QANTAS operated a 787 Dreamliner London-Sydney direct in 19 hours and 19 minutes.
- The QANTAS 747-200, -300 and -400 models had a fifth engine pod capability that could carry an additional engine on commercial flights, a capability that was used extensively in early days of the 747-200 when engine reliability required engines to be shipped to all parts of the world. Improved engine reliability of the 747-400 and 747-400ER made this capability redundant.
QANTAS Airways aircraft photo gallery:
QANTAS Airways aircraft slide show: