Qantas has officially marked the end of an era with the final departure of the last Boeing 747 jumbo jet ‘Queen of the Skies’.
After a ceremonial goodbye, flight QF7474 left Sydney on the afternoon of Wednesday 22 July and began its journey to the US where it would soon be retired in California’s Mojave Desert.
During its final flyover, which appeared to be a winding loop over Sydney’s coastline, the plane left one final tribute for its fans – a flight path in the shape of the company’s iconic kangaroo logo.
The 747 fleet has been servicing Qantas for nearly 50 years, with the first delivery in August 1971. For context, that’s the same year William McMahon became Prime Minister and the first McDonalds opened in Australia.
Not only did this fleet make international travel economically possible for millions of people for the first time but it heralded a new generation of Australian travellers by introducing non-stop trans-Pacific flights and affordable international airfares.
Due to its size, range and incredible reliability the fleet also played a part in transporting thousands of migrant families to Australia and carrying out rescue missions after disasters such as Cyclone Tracy in 1974, the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, and more recently COVID-19, where the aircraft was used to bring stranded Australians home from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan in February.
In total, 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.
“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,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
“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.”
However, Alan continued saying time has overtaken the 747 with the 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 offering more fuel efficiency and range. The retirement of the 747 was also brought forward after international travel was halted due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been a wonderful part of our history, a truly ground-breaking aircraft, and while we are sad to see our last one go, it’s time to hand over to the next generation of aircraft that are a lot more efficient,” added Sharelle Quinn, the airline’s first female captain who was in command of the final flight.