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Final 747 flight goes viral with 600k sharing Roo design

written by Adam Thorn | July 23, 2020

The final Qantas 747 flight went viral on Wednesday night with more than 600,000 users sharing its kangaroo flight path on Twitter and Instagram.

In fact, during its first hour in the air, Flightradar24 reported that 150,000 users were tracking its journey in real-time as people tried to decipher what Captain Sharelle Quinn was attempting.

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Yesterday, QF7474 departed Sydney at 3:28pm on its way to Los Angeles, but on the way took a detour to draw an enormous Qantas Kangaroo in the skies.

Australian Aviation can reveal the now-iconic design measured 275 kilometres east-west and 250 kilometres north-south and took just under 90 minutes to complete.

More than 365,000 users on Twitter and 255,000 on Instagram shared Qantas’ official post, but many tens of thousands are likely to have also shared similar pictures and animations of the journey.

When it finished, VH-OEJ climbed to cruising altitude and headed for Los Angeles, where it touched down at 1:23pm after 15 hours in the air.

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Twitter user Owen Zupp captured the moment the plane came in to rest at LAX.

The 17-year-old Boeing 747-438 is set to take off at 9:30am on 24 July for its very final flight before arriving in the Mojave Desert at 10am. Qantas had sold the 747, along with five others, to General Electric Co.

Australian Aviation, along with 150 lucky employees, was privileged enough to be at Hangar 96 on Wednesday as Qantas said goodbye to the Queen of the Skies during an emotional ceremony.

Attendees were invited to sign the underside of the aircraft before chief executive Alan Joyce took to the stage to deliver a tribute to the aircraft the airline still considers its own.

“The 747 changed world aviation, changed Qantas and changed Australia,” said Joyce. “It’s an aircraft with an amazing history, an aircraft that has really made a difference to a lot of people.”

He explained how, in 1971, Qantas took the biggest gamble in its history by spending $135 million – or around $1.5 billion in today’s money – on purchasing four Boeing 747s. “At the time, people thought supersonic travel was the way of the future,” he quipped.

Qantas’ first female captain, Sharelle Quinn, who led the flight team, told reporters, “I have flown this aircraft for 36 years and it has been an absolute privilege.”

The very final journey followed three special flights for customer departing the week before in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.

Proceeds from those ticket sales were donated to the HARS Aviation Museum in NSW and the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, Queensland. Both currently have 747s on public display.

In the past few months alone, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and KLM have all announced plans to fast-forward the retirement of their 747s, with BA, the holder of the largest fleet, thought not to be planning any farewell at all.

QUEEN OF THE SKIES FACTS

  • The first Qantas 747-238 was VH-EBA, named City of Canberra and the first ever Qantas 747 flight was on 17 September 1971 from Sydney to Singapore (via Melbourne), carrying 55 first class and 239 economy passengers.
  • In almost 50 years of service, the Qantas Boeing 747 fleet of aircraft has flown over 3.6 billion kilometres, the equivalent of 4,700 return trips to the moon or 90,000 times around the world.
  • Qantas operated a total number of 65 747 aircraft, including the 747-100, 747-200, 747-SP, 747-300, 747-400 and the 747-400ER, and each had specific capabilities such as increased thrust engines and increased take-off weight to allow longer range operations.
  • The 747-SP was the first 747 model that allowed non-stop operations across the Pacific in 1984, which meant travellers no longer had to “hop” their way across the Pacific and could fly from Australia to the west coast of the US non-stop. The 747-400, which Qantas operated from 1989, opened up the US west coast cities non-stop, and one-stop to European capitals.
  • In 1979, Qantas became the first airline to operate an all Boeing 747 fleet.
  • The 747 also broke records, including in 1989 when Qantas crew flew a world first non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. That 30-year record was only broken in 2019 when Qantas operated a 787 Dreamliner London-Sydney direct in 19 hours and 19 minutes.
  • The Qantas 747-200, -300 and -400 models had a fifth engine pod capability that could carry an additional engine on commercial flights, a capability that was used extensively in early days of the 747-200 when engine reliability required engines to be shipped to all parts of the world. Improved engine reliability of the 747-400 and 747-400ER made this capability redundant.

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11 Comments

  • Meepa

    says:

    I wonder if that “nice send off” fuel burn cost would be enough to go to the Pilots and F/A’s to keep them in a job for a little longer??? No unfortunately. Welcome to the scrap heap “queen of the skies”, and their you will find the rest of the aviation lowly dogs called “front line crew”

    After being 1.5Hrs late for departure, the Qantas Pompous lived up to its name with a pretty underwhelming flyby….

    • Peter Milaras

      says:

      Meepa, unfortunately your post leaves me underwhelmed. Anything as iconic to Australia and its transport history deserves a good farewell. Remembering if nothing else, the 747 helped to facilitate the acquisition of the lion’s share of foreign currency for the Australian Government for many years.

  • Andrew

    says:

    Wasn’t it the Rolls Royce powered 747’s that had the 5th pod capability ?
    Don’t think the GE powered ER airframes were fitted to carry a 5th pod installation ?

  • Tinai

    says:

    Agree with you however so glad that Sharelle flew the Queen on her final journey.

    It made me sick to the stomach watching AJ talking about the aircraft we love and knew from front to back. Her every sigh and nuance. Great media beat up. What would he know? Truly. Never set foot down the back.
    Honestly makes me nauseous to think “they” think we don’t know the truth. Well done to the media team. Took eyes off the sad reality. Clever but oh so obvious. And if it were not for the virus there would have been more tag alongs on a junket to Lax. Just as “they” tagged along for the longest 747 flight, Project Sunrise ad nauseam. Number crunchers is all they will ever be. If they truly had a passion, a love and a commitment to aviation they would have aimed to be in the skies-in whatever capacity.

    Sit in your ivory towers. You come, you go in that revolving door without ever knowing the true passion for flight.

  • Bill Oreally

    says:

    Oh Grizzle Guts, get a life.

  • Lee

    says:

    When did Qantas use 747-100s?

  • Doc

    says:

    Some reports i’ve been reading make out like it was a spur of the moment detour by the crew to fly the ‘roo design …
    I’m betting there was a LOT of pre planning went into it ….. Air Traffic, fuel loads, etc.

  • Darren

    says:

    Loved the Re-roote QF, great marketing!
    But surprised they aren’t keeping a couple of 747’s for freighters (BCF). I guess there’s no money in freight?

  • Peter

    says:

    What a mealy mothed comment. I (and everyone I have spoken to) thought it was fantastic and a worthy departure for a Grand Lady of the Skies.

  • Davo

    says:

    Lee, Qantas leased VH-EEI, a -100 series, in the late 80’s. It was painted in Air Pacific colours, but was often used on Qantas main stream flights. Qantas actually upgraded that planes engines from (I can’t remember) to JT9D7F’s with parts they procured from when Qantas upgraded the engines for NASA’a shuttle carrier to a higher thrust model.How do I know this? I flew on that plane for my 1st overseas trip and worked on the NASA engine upgrades as an apprentice.

  • Pauline Clayton

    says:

    For many years a News Ltd travel writer/editor. I’ve travelled in Longreach. Was also a private pilot, therefore this was an emotional farewell on many levels.. Landing to the ‘I still call Australia home’ choir always raised a tear.
    Qantas and the 747’s have been integral to what makes Australia great.

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