Qantas is marking the end of an era today (July 22) with the departure of the Australian national carrier’s last Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
The airline brought forward the scheduled retirement of its B747 fleet by six months after the Covid-19 pandemic decimated the demand for international air travel globally.
The final 747-400 in the fleet, which was delivered in 2003, departed Sydney at 2pm (local time) as flight number QF7474. The carrier says “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 “Queen of The Skies” aircraft will then be flown to Los Angeles with a full cargo hold of freight before its final sector to the Mojave Desert.
This marks the final flight for a Qantas B747 after almost 50 years of service with the Australian airline.
Archival footage of the first Qantas 747-400 variant (VH-OJA)
Qantas says its first female Captain Sharelle Quinn, who has flown the aircraft for 36 years, will be in command of the final flight.
“From the Pope to pop stars, our 747’s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations. Over the decades, it’s also swooped in on a number of occasions to save Aussies stranded far from home,” said Quinn.
The Queen greets guests after arriving on a Qantas 747 to commence the 1992 Royal Tour of Australia
The carrier took delivery of its first 747 (a -200 series) in August 1971. Its arrival made international travel possible for millions of Australians for the first time. In almost 50 years of service, the Qantas Boeing 747 fleet of aircraft has flown over 3.6 billion kilometres, the equivalent of 4,700 return trips to the moon or 90,000 times around the world, according to the airline.
The 1970s Economy Class cabin of the first Qantas Boeing 747
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce 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.
“This aircraft was well ahead of its time and extremely capable. Engineers and cabin crew loved working on them and pilots loved flying them. So did passengers. They have carved out a very special place in aviation history and I know they’ll be greatly missed by a lot of people, including me,” he added.
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.
The progress of flight QF7474 can be followed on FlightRadar24.