And then there were six.
Qantas’s Boeing 747-400 fleet is down to half a dozen airframes following the withdrawal of VH-OJU Lord Howe Island.
The 19-year-old aircraft, which came out of the Boeing production line in January 2000, had its final commercial flight in Qantas colours on Sunday, October 13 2019, when it operated the QF99 from Sydney to Los Angeles.
It was a sad afternoon @SydneyAirport today, as @Qantas B747-400 VH-OJU departed on her final commercial flight. VH-OJU is the last of the Rolls Royce powered QF B744s, serving Qantas for 19 years & 9 months, while completing over 90,000 flights, and 70 million kilometres ✈️💙📷 pic.twitter.com/gvjQkObYEW
— 16Right Media (@www16Right) October 13, 2019
The flight was a celebration of sorts, with Qantas making all 364 business, premium economy and economy seats available for frequent flyer points redemptions when it announced the date of the flight in August as part of the airline’s “points plane” concept.
— JT Genter (@JTGenter) October 13, 2019
All 58 business class seats and 36 premium economy seats were occupied, while there were about 100 spare seats in the economy cabin when VH-OJU took off from Sydney Airport’s Runway 34L a little after 1700 on Sunday.
Interspersed in the cabin were passengers simply heading to Los Angeles as part of their normal travel, unaware or unconcerned with the significance of the occasion, alongside bona fide aviation enthusiasts keen to get one more, possibly final, ride on the iconic aircraft.
Follow QF 99 on @flightradar24 as we say goodbye to VH-OJU, a Boeing 747-400 delivered to us in 2000.
She’s operated 90,000+ flight hours and flown over 70 million kilometres.
We’re sad to see her go but her new owner will take care of her. We’ll reveal more later this week. pic.twitter.com/XJua4qWyxB
— Qantas (@Qantas) October 13, 2019
Perhaps in recognition of the number of people on board who had made a point of being on VH-OJU’s swansong performance, the announcements over the tannoy from pilots and cabin crew providing plenty of information on the history of the aircraft, the proposed route to Los Angeles and details about the takeoff weight out of Sydney.
Also, the pilots alerted passengers to the moment VH-OJU Lord Howe Island flew over its island namesake, about 425 miles east of Sydney.
Some 13 hours after departure, and following some dinner, rest and breakfast over the course of the flight, VH-OJU touched down at Los Angeles International Airport at a little after 1200 local time and taxied its way to a remote stand on the western side of the airfield.
So long, VH-OJU! This @BoeingAirplanes 747-400 @Qantas landed at LAX, operating her final revenue flight, #QF99 from SYD. After 19 years, 70 million km, 92,000+ hours flown & 2.5 million pax carried, this 747 will be retired. Video: Lixander Rubalcava. @ghimlay @flightradar24 pic.twitter.com/kZWPurXkuA
— Aeronews (@AeronewsGlobal) October 13, 2019
It ended at a remote stand. #Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU Lord Howe Island landed at #LosAngeles a little after 1200 on Sunday October 13 2019 as the QF99 from #Sydney. It was the aircraft’s final commercial flight in #Qantas colours. The airline has six 747s left in its fleet #avgeek pic.twitter.com/l7GimzCzxp
— World of Aviation (@the_wofa) October 13, 2019
Passengers collected their belongings, made their goodbyes and then headed off the aircraft, stopping on the way to the waiting buses for one final glimpse or photograph.
And just like that, the curtain fell on VH-OJU’s near two-decade career with Qantas.
The retirement of VH-OJU, which was the last remaining Rolls-Royce-powered 747-438 in the Qantas fleet, left six GE-powered 747-438ERs (VH-OEE thru OEJ) delivered between 2002 and 2003.
Qantas has operated the 747 since 1971
In all, Qantas has operated 65 747s, taking delivery of 57 new 747s from Boeing, purchasing three 747‑400s second-hand 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.
The first 747 entered service with Qantas in September 1971, and in time the airline 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).
Qantas has said previously it was expecting to have the last 747 withdrawn by the time the airline celebrates its centenary at the end of 2020.
VIDEO: A Qantas television advertisement celebrating the introduction into service of the Boeing 747-400 in 1989 from the Yogiew2 YouTube channel.