Qantas says farewell to the “Queen of the Skies”

Qantas says farewell to the "Queen of the skies" ©AirTeamImages

Qantas will mark the end of an era with the departure of the national carrier’s last Boeing 747 jumbo jet on July 22.

The final 747-400 in the fleet (registration VH-OEJ) departed Sydney at 2pm as flight number QF7474, bringing to an end five decades of history-making moments for the national carrier and aviation in Australia. Qantas took delivery of its first 747 (a -200 series) in August 1971, the same year that William McMahon became Prime Minister, the first McDonalds opened in Australia and Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool topped the music charts. Its arrival – and its economics – made international travel possible for millions of people for the first time.

The fleet of 747 aircraft not only carried generations of Australians on their first overseas adventures, the ‘jumbo jet’ also offered a safe voyage for hundreds of thousands of migrant families who flew to their new life in Australia on board a ‘roo-tailed aircraft. Qantas 747s were at the forefront of a number of important milestones for the airline, including the first Business Class cabin of any airline in the world. Their size, range and incredible reliability meant they were used for numerous rescue missions: flying a record 674 passengers out of Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy; evacuating Australians out of Cairo during political unrest in 2011, and flying medical supplies in and tourists home from the Maldives and Sri Lanka following the Boxing Day Tsunami in December 2004.

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

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