QANTAS Farewells the ‘Queen of the Skies’

Once an all-747 airline, Qantas has marked the end of an era with the departure of the last 747-400 (registration VH-OEJ) in the its fleet.

The departure of flight QF7474, brought to an end five decades of history-making moments for the national carrier and aviation in Australia.

“The final Qantas 747 departure is a significant moment in Australian aviation,” said The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

“For nearly 50 years, these enormous, remarkable aircraft have have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations, connecting Australia and Australians to the world. Qantas’ Queens of the Skies carved out a very special place in aviation history and will be missed,” added Hosper.

Qantas brought forward the scheduled retirement of the fleet by six months after the COVID-19 pandemic decimated international travel globally.

“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.

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.

Fun facts

  • The first Qantas 747-238 was VH-EBA, named City of Canberra and the first ever Qantas 747 flight was on 17 September 1971 from Sydney to Singapore (via Melbourne), carrying 55 first class and 239 economy passengers.
  • Qantas operated a total number of 65 747 aircraft including the 747-100, 747-200, 747-SP, 747-300, 747-400 and the 747-400ER.
  • In 1979, Qantas became the first airline to operate an all Boeing 747 fleet.
  • 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.
  • The 747 also broke records, including in 1989 when Qantas crew flew a world first non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. That thirty-year record was only broken in 2019 when Qantas operated a 787 Dreamliner London-Sydney direct in 19 hours and 19 minutes.

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QANTAS: Getting Engines Running

Even though it will be a while before Qantas’ long haul fleet returns to the skies commercially, the airline’s aircraft aren’t completely idle during this hibernation.

Qantas and Jetstar have 220 aircraft grounded at various airports around Australia and overseas due to the drastic reduction in domestic and international flying due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, even when grounded, there’s plenty of work being done to keep their aircraft ready for when flying resumes.

“Images of commercial aircraft parked at airports and storage areas around the world really are astonishing.”

Peter Hosper, CEO of The Travel Authority Group.

“It’s fascinating to see what’s going on behind the scenes to maintain these huge aircraft while they’re grounded,” adds Hosper.

As we’ve reported before, the aircraft might be grounded but they’re being well attended to by engineering, maintenance and cleaning staff. And the engines need particular attention to keep them ready-to-fly.

Qantas’ Head of Line Maintenance John Walker says every aircraft needs to have an “engine wakeup” and for our Boeing 747s it’s required every seven days. And here’s what that process looks like.

Each of the 747 jumbo engines consumes up to 600 kilos of fuel per hour at idle and at full take off power (not used during the engine run) generates up to 60,000 pounds of thrust.

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