Qantas has marked the end of an era with the departure of the national carrier’s last Boeing 747 aircraft. To the misery of many Avgeeks, the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis forced Qantas to bring forward the scheduled retirement of the type by six months, after international travel demand slumped globally. Today marked the final flight of a Qantas B747 in Australia, after almost 50 years of service with the airline.
Qantas farewells the B747
The final B747 in the fleet departed Sydney as QF7474 at 3:28 pm on Wednesday 22nd July, almost an hour and a half past its scheduled departure time. The aircraft was delivered in 2003, registered VH-OEJ and given the name Wunala. The flight completed a flyby of Sydney Harbour and CBD before flying south to make a low level overfly of HARS Museum in Albion Park, dipping its wings as a final farewell to Qantas’ first 747-400, VH-OJA, which is preserved at the museum.
The aircraft then headed out over the Pacific Ocean, as the sun set on a 50-year love affair with Australians and their beloved Queen of The Skies. As a special tribute, the pilots of QF7474 ‘painted’ a Qantas kangaroo in the sky.
Ten Qantas Boeing 747 Moments
- 16 August 1971: Qantas’s first-ever Boeing 747-238B (VH-EBA) landed at Sydney after flying from the Boeing factory in Seattle, via San Francisco and Honolulu.
- 28 December 1974: Qantas broke the record for most people on a Boeing 747 after evacuating 674 people from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy.
- 27 July 1979: Qantas becomes the first airline in the world to introduce ‘Business Class’. In the same year, Qantas became the only all-747 airline in the world.
- 7 April 1984: Qantas took delivery of the shorter and faster Boeing 747SP variant which flew the first non-stop transpacific services.
- 17 August 1989: Qantas makes a record-breaking delivery flight of their first Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA) which flew a non-stop flight from London to Sydney in a little over 20 hours.
- 4 April 1994: Qantas launched the first of its ‘Flying Art’ series aircraft, inspired by the natural colours of Australia. The first artwork, Wunala Dreaming was carried on two different B747-400 aircraft, VH-OJB 1994-2003, and VH-OEJ 2003 – 2011.
- 14 October 2002: Qantas operated nine Boeing 747 evacuation flights from Bali, with the airline flying more than 4,500 Australians home after the terrorist attack.
- 8 March 2015: The first Qantas B747-400 (VH-OJA) operated a 15-minute flight from Sydney to Wollongong Airport to its new home at the HARS Museum.
- 3 February 2020: Qantas Boeing 747-400 (VH-OEE) operated the first of two rescue flights from the COVID-19 epicentre of Wuhan, China to bring home hundreds of stranded Australians.
- 22 July 2020: The final Qantas 747 (VH-OEJ) departed Sydney Airport bound for storage in the Mojave Desert.
John Allen (@john_theaircrafttraveler) captured this image of VH-OEH on one of Qantas’ domestic 747 flights earlier this year