QANTAS: 747 – Goodbye and good luck
Today marks the end of the Qantas Boeing 747 jumbo jets with the departure of the 747-400 – registration VH-OEJ at 2pm from Sydney with flight number QF7474.
The first 747-200 arrived at Qantas in August 1971 heralding affordable international travel for millions of Australians.
The 747 fleet saw (arguably) the first Business Class cabin on any airline in the world, they flew 674 passengers out of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy and brought medical supplies in and tourists out of the Maldives and Sri Lanka after the Boxing Day Tsunami in December 2004. Most recently, they repatriated stranded Australians from various locations across the world due to COVID-19. They were also part of the complete grounding of the Qantas fleet back in October 2011 which Alan Joyce oversaw as an industrial relations tactic, in a dispute with unionised staff.
Qantas has terminated the 747 six months early due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on international travel.
“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.”Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO
VH-OEJ will do a flyby of Sydney Harbour, the CBD and northern and eastern suburbs beaches with a low level overfly of the HARS Museum (Albion Park) as a final farewell to Qantas’ first 747-400, VH-OJA, which is housed there.
The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.
It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.
This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.
The 747 is immensely historically important, both for the vision that spurred its manufacture and for the effect it had on global international travel. It is definitely the end of an era.
On the positive note, modern planes provide a much more comfortable experience, with smoother flights, higher pressure in their cabins, and greater fuel efficiency. These planes – the Boeing 787’s and the Airbus 350’s are the new rulers of the sky.
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