There will be 10 special passengers on board Qantas’s one-off flight to Turkey when it takes off from Sydney Airport on Tuesday evening.
The Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEI that will make the journey from Kingsford Smith to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport via Perth is carrying 10 widows of World War One veterans who are headed to Gallipoli to mark the centenary of Anzac Day.
The 10 widows were guests of honour at a high tea Qantas hosted in Hangar 96 of the airline’s Sydney jet base on Monday afternoon.
Among those to greet and farewell the 10 women were Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and Senator Michael Ronaldson the Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs.
Singer-songwriter Lee Kernaghan also sang two songs from his Spirit of the Anzacs album.
The jumbo that will fly to Istanbul features special a livery commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day and has been renamed “Fysh McGinness” in honour Qantas co-founders Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, who both served in Gallipoli.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said there were about 340 Qantas staff who bid to operate QF100, with 38 eventually chosen. All have links to either Gallipoli and/or World War One, including a pair of cabin crew of Turkish heritage whose great-grandfather served in Gallipoli.
“I wish I could share all of their stories,” Joyce said.
“These stories unite Qantas, just as we are united in our memory of Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness and just as Australia is united in countless similar memories of courage and sacrifice.”
The government wrote to the 145 remaining widows of World War One veterans in Australia asking if any would like to make the trip to Turkey for the centenary of Anzac Day about 15 months ago. There are no living veterans of the Gallipoli campaign in this country.
Cosgrove said the 10 widows were “part of the greatness of Australia”.
“You are links to a legend and all that it stands for,” Cosgrove said.
Abbott described the widows as remarkable women of courage and empathy.
“Your memories make you keepers of the Anzac flame and I promise that as a nation we will keep this flame alive for generations to come,” Abbott said.
QF100 was scheduled to depart Sydney at 2150 local time on Tuesday and land in Perth a little after midnight. Following a two-hour technical stop and the pickup of extra passengers, the flight was scheduled to take off from the WA capital at 0240 and arrive at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport at 1230 local time on Wednesday.