Qantas took delivery of its first Boeing 747 on August 16 1971, which means the type has been in the airline’s fleet for 47 years.
The airline welcomed its first 747 in Australia on the morning of Thursday, August 16 1971, when 747-238 VH-EBA touched down at Sydney Airport.
The aircraft was ferried to Sydney from Boeing’s Paine Field just outside Seattle via San Francisco and Honolulu.
Over the ensuing 47 years, Qantas would operate almost every major 747 variant, including the 747SP, the 747 Combi, the 747-300 (which introduced the extended upper deck), the 747-400, and the 747-400ER (Extended Range).
In all, Qantas has operated 65 747s, taking delivery of 57 new 747s from Boeing, purchasing three 747-400s secondhand and operating five leased aircraft at various points. And for a period between the retirement of its last 707 in March 1978 and the delivery of its first 767 in July 1985 Qantas even operated an all-747 fleet.
Qantas currently has 10 747-400s in service, comprising six GE-powered 747-438ERs (VH-OEE thru OEJ) delivered between 2002 and 2003, a single GE-powered 747-48E (VH-OEB, built for Asiana in 1993 and acquired by Qantas in 1998) and three Rolls-Royce-powered 747-438s (VH-OJS, OJT and OJU) delivered in the 1999-2000 timeframe.
The aircraft are used on some medium-haul flights to Asia (such as Sydney to Tokyo Haneda
and Hong Kong), a number of trans-Pacificc routes (including Sydney to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver and Brisbane-Los Angeles-New York JFK) and long over-water flights from Sydney to Johannesburg and Santiago.
The final chapter of the 747’s significant place in the long history of Qantas will be written in about two years.
In May, Qantas announced the 747s would be gradually withdrawn between now and 2020, when the airline is due to celebrate its centenary.
VIDEO: A Qantas television ad celebrating the introduction into service of the Boeing 747-400 in 1989 from Yogiew2’s YouTube channel.
The June edition of Australian Aviation looks at the role the Boeing 747 has played in the history of Qantas. It can be read here. Digital editions of the magazine can be purchased on Zinio and Issuu, or in the Apple app store.