Yesterday, Wednesday 22 July 2020, the final Qantas 747 departed Australia for the last time. After 49 years, there are no more 747s in the Qantas fleet.
VH-OEJ, a 747-400ER, was wheels up from Sydney “Kingsford Smith” Airport at 3:28pm before completing a low level flyover of many Sydney landmarks. The flyover took the plane back over the airport, over Bondi Beach, out to Sydney Olympic Park before the plane dipped its wings to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House over Sydney Harbour. After its flyover of Sydney, the plane headed south to say farewell to the first 747-400, VH-OJA at HARS in Wollongong before heading out over the Pacific. Not done yet, the pilots left behind a Kangaroo in the sky as a fitting final farewell for Australia’s last 747.
Qantas took delivery of its first Boeing 747 in August 1971, with the first passenger flight on 17 September 1971 from Sydney to Singapore. In nearly 49 years of service with Qantas, the 747 fleet has flown over 3.6 billion kilometres, the equivalent of 4,700 return trips to the moon or 90,000 times around the world.
Qantas operated 65 747 aircraft over the years, including the 747-100, 747-200, 747-SP, 747-300, 747-400 and the 747-400ER. Each model had specific capabilities the allowed for longer operations carrying more passengers. In 1979, Qantas became the first airline to operate an all 747 fleet (in an era when Qantas was an all international airline).
The 747-400 was perhaps the most revolutionary 747 for Qantas. The first 747-400 delivery flight broke world records when it flew a world first non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. The 747-400 allowed for direct flights from Australia to the US and for one stop trips to Europe.
More recently, the 747 has operated on routes where the flagship A380 is too big but where smaller planes don’t have the range to operate. These included flights to Johannesburg, Santiago, Tokyo and Vancouver. The final regularly scheduled 747 passenger flight was operated by VH-OEE, as QF28 from Santiago to Sydney, touching down on 29 March 2020.
Throughout July, Qantas operated a series of farewell flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra using VH-OEJ. Whilst this wasn’t the big farewell that Qantas has originally planned for later this year, it was only fitting to send off the queen like a queen. The final passenger flight operated as QF747 on 17 July 2020 as a roundtrip from Canberra. The final flight in Qantas colours occurred nearly a week later on 22 July 2020, when OEJ departed from Sydney to Mojave via Los Angeles. Some additional pictures from her departure from Sydney are below.