Australia’s largest airline is officially through with the iconic Boeing 747, after sending the last one halfway around the world.
At 2 pm on Wednesday Qantas sent its last one packing on its final flight from Sydney, headed to Los Angeles with a full cargo of freight. CEO Alan Joyce said the retirement marked the end of an era in Australian aviation history.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact that the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia,” CEO Alan Joyce said.
“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.”
Qantas’ first, named City of Canberra, was acquired in 1971 with the first flight from Sydney to Singapore, via Melbourne. The airline has since seen six different types of 747s pass through its fleet as Boeing increased their size, range and capabilities. However, while the planes may have dominated the skies in earlier eras, they have been on the way out for some time now.
“Time has overtaken the 747 and we now have a much more fuel-efficient aircraft with even better range in our fleet, such as the 787 Dreamliner that we use on Perth-London and hopefully before too long, the Airbus A350 for our Project Sunrise flights non-stop to New York and London,” Joyce said.
He signed the plane before it took off on Wednesday. The flight, numbered QF7474, will do a flyover of Sydney Harbour, the CBD and beaches before making one final detour to the HARS museum at Albion Park.
It will then dip its wing in a final farewell to Qantas’ original 747-400 plane which is housed there before heading for LA. From there it will head to its final resting place in the Mojave Desert.
The flight carries no passengers other than a full crew. It’s commanded by Qantas’s first female Captain, Sharelle Quinn, who said the aircraft occupied “a very special place” in the hearts of the broader aviation community.
“From the Pope to pop stars, our 747’s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations,” Quinn said. “Over the decades, it’s also swooped in on a number of occasions to save Aussies stranded far from home.”
Most recently it took the plane to China, where it picked up Australians who had been left stranded by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions that were put in place.
While its retirement had been long-planned, the airline acknowledged that the virus had only brought forward its inevitable final flight.