VH-OJA finds a retirement home

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 29, 2015
Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJA.
Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJA. (Anthony Jackson)

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.

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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.

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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.

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24 Comments

  • Geoff

    says:

    Great News. The old girl deserves being kept as a significant aircraft for Australia where the public can wander all over her. Close up, the 747 400 is an amazing experience.

  • Barry

    says:

    Great that they are preserving it.
    Why not at Brisbane though? Plenty of room and home state.

  • adammudhen

    says:

    Remind me to never play poker with Bob De La Hunty! Great news, pleased to see she found a home.

  • Mark

    says:

    Given the pavement strength at Wollongong it will be interesting to see whether they can land it and taxy it in without burying the main wheels in the bitumen. The Connie managed to bury itself at the last Wings over Illawarra.

  • Greg Stevenson

    says:

    Great News.
    As a Member of HARS and a retired Qantas Engineer it will be great to see VH-OJA on display at the HARS facility. It will be great to show people around the aircraft, which on its own holds a very important place in Australian Aviation History. Believe me when I say the HARS Members will look after this aircraft just as we do with all of our other aircraft. There will be many people who haven’t had the chance to actually walk around an 747-400 on the ground; they only usually go inside to actually take a trip somewhere in the world.
    By the way, this aircraft is actually designated as a 747-438; the 38 being a specific Qantas manufacturing number allocated by the manufacturer Boeing.

  • Michael Hayden

    says:

    Once the official date/time is announced I recommend travel via train (to Albion Park Rail) – the station is about a 10-15 minute walk from the airfield. I would expect parking on this day to be at a premium. Also expect the Illawarra Highway to be closed from about 15-20 mins before scheduled arrival time.

    It will be interesting to see where HARS will park the old girl. Hopefully they have a friendly “ready mixed concrete supplier:.

  • Andrew

    says:

    i loved that plane – many 39hr london slips on that baby!

  • John Harrison

    says:

    Great to see VH-OJA has found a home, will be interesting to see her get “into” her final resting place.
    Yes I was on duty at Sydney Mascot airport on the day she arrived from London non stop. Well Done to
    Qantas for doing this.
    Cheers

  • Steve

    says:

    Well done to Qantas.

    You’ve copped plenty of flack of late, but with the retro B738 and now this decision….well done.

  • Amgus Fergusson

    says:

    Im sure my father would have loved to see this fly to HARS. He was a pilot for Qantas for 26 years before he retired in 85. He flew 747’s for most of the last 10 or so years of his career.

  • Warwick Etheridge

    says:

    Well done Qantas management on taking the decision to donate this most significant aircraft to HARS and not let her just slip away into the Californian desert to a very uncertain future.

    If Canberra was not a possible location for VH – OJA (City of Canberra) to retire to then the HARS group of passionate folk at Albion Park is most definitely the right final landing spot for her.

    Now what about preserving one of Qantas’ Boeing 767 jets that have been retired to the Alice Springs storage facility. Those wonderful aircraft form a significant part of our aviation history and have made an invaluable contribution to Qantas’ history too. Such an aircraft is most worthy of preservation here also.

    Alan Joyce and his team at Qantas should take the opportunity to retain one of these B767s as part of the airline’s history in this country while the aircraft are still on Austalian soil.

  • R. Marinkovic

    says:

    One more bight star in Qantas aviation going to be retired. Great B747-400 and B707 Intercontinental, is diamond in crown of Qantas aircrafts, used in last all most hundred years. My privilege to be part of that
    great history. Where I have spent over 20 years of service to Big Qantas and work on maintenance of Boeing
    fleet. From my gross flying time. over 4.000 hours, more than half is on lovely Jumbo Jet’s. I was at work
    at Jet Base when was touch down on main runway of KS Airport neo retired B747-400 VH-OJA SYDNEY.
    Wit hope to visiting new home of VH-OJA near Wollongong after Easter. With greeting to all, include those
    new people who neo take care about most important aviation part south of Sydney.
    Rodney & Associated, Home of Qantasville II, Serbia.

  • Charles

    says:

    I was living in the UK at the time when VH-OJA made its historic flight non stop down under, I remember the news article about its super cold fuel to give it extra range, cannot wait to visit her at Wollongong, well done Qantas.

  • Darrell

    says:

    Great OJA is staying in Australia saw it on the delivery line at Boeing in 1989

  • Peter

    says:

    I think it would further add to the visual impact of OJA if she was repainted in the “new roo” livery & so look immaculate for her retirement at Albion Park. The last time I flew on OJA was in May ’14 on a SYD/JNB sector & her paintwork was already looking a bit tired. I am sure HARS would then retain the showroom look with the help of paint preservatives etc.

  • phil

    says:

    Hmmm..since it’s just going to sit at the alb prk location as a display I wonder if I can buy an engine from it 🙂 I need one for my new jet turbine project…..

    🙂

    Phil

  • Terence

    says:

    Referring to what Phil said; will HARS be maintaining its flight readiness, or will it just be a static display? From a look at their website it looks like most of their planes are airworthy, although presumably keeping a 747 is going to cost a lot!

    Exciting stuff!

  • Taurean Lea

    says:

    I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate VH-OJA on it’s well deserved retirement after 25 years of service with QANTAS and to Australia and the World. OJA really does deserve to go on display at a museum, whether it is at HARS, Qantas Founders Museum, any RAAF museum or at Brisbane Airport, it needs a medal for all the great work it has done for 25 long years!!! Woohoo!!!

  • Taurean Lea

    says:

    Phil

    You can’t buy an engine from a Boeing 747, don’t be ridiculous.

  • Mac Carter

    says:

    Is it possible to keep this aircraft as a flying exibit for display at airshows ect.
    It would be great to see it at Longreach along with all the other historic aircraft stored there.

  • Brian

    says:

    Mac, it would be every aviation enthusiast’s dream to have a 747 of any model turning up at airshows but a mega budget would be required – Qantas can’t even put the 707 in the sky, even for airshows like Avalon which is a great pity indeed. But with Qantas forecasting a profit turnaround in 2015 who knows, there may be a small budget available for the 707, fingers crossed!

  • Peter

    says:

    The runway at Albion Park is about 1800 metres, so that’s likely too short for a safe take-off, therefore not sure that the old girl will fly again. Albion Park is not far from the ocean, so it won’t take long to get some sea salt collecting on various surfaces, even with the best intentions, it would be very costly to maintain to a safe flying standard. It’s a shame, as I agree it would be amazing to see it performing display flights at other air shows.

  • michael

    says:

    A GOOD MATE OF MINE WHO IS SADLY NO LONGER WITH US REMEMBERS PICKING HIS GREAT AUNT UP AT MASCOT IN THE EARLY 1970,S HAVING FLOWN FROM ENGLAND ON THE THEN NEW BOEING 747, HE RELATED TO ME HE COULD NOT BELEIVE THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE COMING THROUGH THE GATE, AND COULD NOT BELEIVE THEY COULD ALL FIT ON ONE AIRPLANE. ALSO CONSIDER THIS IN ENGINEERING TERMS- THE FUEL LOAD ALONE THAT A 747 CAN LIFT EXCEEDS THE WEIGHT OF A FULLY PREPPED BOEING 707 READY FOR TAKE OFF- THATS 180 PASSENGERS PLUS FUEL PLUS FOOD PLUS FREIGHT, ETC ETC, IT IS INDEED ONE OF THE ICONS OF THE 20TH CENTURY, THANK YOU JOE SUTTER !

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