Qantas has finally found a retirement home for its first Boeing 747-400, registration VH-OJA.
The airline annonced on Thursday that VH-OJA will go on display with the Historical Aviation Restoration Society (HARS) at Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park south of Wollongong.
Confirmation of HARS as the site for the 747’s permanent home ends the uncertainty about where VH-OJA would end up, after Qantas changed its mind about placing the aircraft into storage.
The aircraft operated what was expected to be its last commercial flight on December 7 2014, when it departed Sydney as QF107 to Los Angeles. It was then expected to make the short hop across to Victorville where it was to be placed into storage.
Instead, VH-OJA returned from the US just before Christmas and continued in service, including several Sydney-Tokyo Narita and Sydney-Johannesburg rotations. Its last flight was QF64 from Johannesburg, which landed at Sydney on Wednesday January 14 according to flight tracking website Flightaware.
The aircraft will make its final flight from Sydney Airport to Illawarra Regional Airport some time in March, Qantas said in a statement.
The airline said it would be the first 747-400 in the world to be preserved for public display and would be the largest aircraft at HARS.
In 1989, VH-OJA flew non-stop from London to Sydney for its delivery flight, with the trip taking a 20 hours, nine minutes and five seconds.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the spirit of innovation that led to that historic and record-breaking flight “still drives us today”.
“We are excited that by gifting this newly-retired aircraft to the HARS museum, we’re helping create a local tourism attraction as well as preserving a bit of our past,” Joyce said in a statement.
Qantas said it was working with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for approvals to operate the flight.
The journey from Mascot to Illawarra Regional Airport was expected to take 10 minutes.
The pilots scheduled to operate VH-OJA to its retirement home would undergo special simulator training to prepare for the delivery, Qantas said. Illawarra Regional Airport’s main 16/34 runway is 1,819 metres in length.
The 747-400 will sit alongside a Lockheed Super Constellation, Catalina, Douglas DC-3 and DC-4.
Qantas said the official handover would take place on March 15, coinciding with the society’s monthly open day.
Read more about VH-OJA’s 1989 delivery flight in the January/February edition of Australian Aviation.