The last Qantas Boeing 747-400 service has departed Sydney after five decades of operations with Australia’s national carrier.
The aircraft is carrying cargo across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles before its final destination in the Mojave Desert.
Like British Airways, Qantas is retiring its 747 fleet in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, which has ruined travel demand and made the jumbo jet too expensive to fly commercially.
“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,” said Alan Joyce, Qantas’ CEO.
Live feed from @7NewsSydney at @SydneyAirport as the final @Qantas 747 prepares for departure from Australia to end nearly 50 years of service. https://t.co/GPNgacUdaZ
Unclear if they parked the 747 next to a Dash 8 for size comparison on purpose. pic.twitter.com/31tNZFQnb8— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 22, 2020
Qantas took delivery of its first 747-200 in August 1971. Qantas’ 747s had the first Business Class cabin of any airline in the world.
Qantas brought forward the scheduled retirement of the fleet by six months following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joyce said: “[The 747] 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.
“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. They have carved out a very special place in aviation history and I know they’ll be greatly missed by a lot of people, including me.”
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.
Qantas’s first female Captain, Sharelle Quinn, in command of the final flight, said the aircraft has a very special place in the hearts of not just Qantas staff, but aviation enthusiasts and travellers alike.
“I have flown this aircraft for 36 years and it has been an absolute privilege”, Captain Quinn said.
“From the Pope to pop stars, our 747’s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations. Over the decades, it’s also swooped in on a number of occasions to save Aussies stranded far from home.”