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Qantas’ last 747 prepares for final flight to Mojave

written by Adam Thorn | July 24, 2020
VH-OEJ departs Sydney for 747s last ever flight (Qantas)
The last of Qantas’ 747s, VH-OEJ, departs Sydney on 24 July for LAX, where it will then fly onto the Mojave Desert boneyard days later (Qantas)

Qantas’ last remaining 747, VH-OEJ, is preparing for its very last flight.

The 17-year-old Boeing 747-438 will depart LAX at 2:30am (AEST) on Saturday morning to head to its final resting place at the notorious Mojave Desert boneyard.

The aircraft is due to land half an hour later at 10am local time on 24 July where it will join a reported 4,500 other aircraft being stored due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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You can track the final trip here on Flightradar24.

Qantas sold its last 747, along with five others, to General Electric. The airport, IATA: MHV, is located within the Mojave Spaceport and has been storing aircraft since the 1970s.

The location is preferred by airlines for storage – either temporary or permanent – because the 120-degree temperatures prevent rust and precipitation can be as low as just 130mm a year.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Little has been reported as to exactly what General Electric Co plans to do with the Qantas 747s.

VH-OEJ’s journey began on Wednesday when QF7474 departed Sydney at 3:28pm on the first leg of its journey to LAX.

After an emotional take-off to the tune of I Still Call Australia Home, captain Sharelle Quinn flew the aircraft over Sydney’s CBD, Harbour and beaches before heading to the HARS Museum, where she dipped its wings in a final salute to the first 747-400 housed at the attraction, VH-OJA.

Then, unexpectedly, Quinn drew a 275-kilometre x 250-kilometre Qantas Kangaroo in the sky.

More than 365,000 users on Twitter and 255,000 on Instagram shared Qantas’ official post of the stunt, 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.

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

Alan Joyce said the 747 “changed world aviation, changed Qantas and changed Australia”.

“It’s an aircraft with an amazing history, an aircraft that has really made a difference to a lot of people,” he added.

The two final trips 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.

FAREWELL PHOTO GALLERY

For more images of the Qantas 747 throughout the years, please browse through Australian Aviation photographer, Rob Finlayson’s collection here.

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19 Comments

  • Gordon Mackinlay

    says:

    “notorious Mojave Desert boneyard.” in what way is it notorious???

    • Adam Thorn

      says:

      Because it’s full of thousands and thousands of aircraft that are either waiting to be pulled apart or are resting until they can come back into service.

      Thanks!

      Adam

      • Rocket

        says:

        Notorious:
        (Adjective)

        famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed.

        • Adam Thorn

          says:

          It’s a scorching hot area where planes go to die! I’m standing by calling it notorious!

          Thanks for your comment,

          Adam

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    P’eed me off to keep hearing TV commentators saying that the original QF jumbo was making its final flight, which of course is untrue. I think QF had a total of 77 jumbos over time. Prior to buying TAA/Australian they did not fly domestically which is why they were able to have a 100% 747 fleet.

  • Ian D

    says:

    Qantas never ordered the 747-100 so when was it operated by the carrier?

  • Linda Weaving

    says:

    3.6 billion km, but how many flights?

  • Rocket

    says:

    The first QANTAS 747 was a 747-238″B”

  • Dave Rogers

    says:

    Adam, I agree with Gordon, Mojave has never been considered ‘notorious’ in any sense. Your claim that it is ‘full of thousands and thousands of aircraft’, pardon my French, is a load of old cobblers! The only facility that comes close to that claim is the AMARG boneyard near Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson AZ. Mojave has been somewhat famous for decades as a civilian aviation research and development centre together with having one of the few Test Pilot schools in the world. Famed (as opposed to nototious) Burt Rutan developed all his experimental aircraft there, including his non-stop around the world aircraft. Many test work programs have been done there on airliners, (the prop fan engines for the MD family were worked there ) and the initial modification of USAF fighters to drones for target work was a product of Mojave. So lthink unwittingly you do the whole facility a disservice by calling it ‘notorious’!
    Yes over the last few decades a storage and disassembly facility has been developed to meet a demand of the industry but in my humble opinion, having been to Mojave many times, there is a much more positive aspect of the whole facility.

  • Ian D

    says:

    Qantas never bought the 747-100 so when did they operate this model?

    • Flight Enggineer Jeff Donaldson

      says:

      Qantas leased a B747 100 from Air Lingus and painted it in Air Pacific colours it was initially a dog, it didn’t fly straight and needed the tail re rigged, had an intermix of JT 9 Engines . It was crewed by Fijian Pilots with a Qantas Flight Engineer , those Fijians had a magic set of hands. It was the only aircraft I flew where I had to run an oil log due to high oil consumption , you could run an engine out f oil if you had to do a Go around an divert,that got the Pilots attention when you gave them a 3 Engine diversion fuel figure! Great flying.

  • Anton

    says:

    It is sad to see the Boeing 747 leave the Qantas fleet? Farewell the Queen of the Skies. Why didn’t you tell us in advance that Qantas was retiring the 747s 6 months early? They were meant to retire in November this year.

  • Doug Gren

    says:

    ” where it will join a reported 4,500 other aircraft being stored due to the coronavirus pandemic”. There might be 4500 stored but I can assure you they’re not all at Mojave.

  • Anton

    says:

    It is sad to see the last Qantas 747-400 to leave the fleet. Farewell the Queen of the skies. Why didn’t you tell us earlier that Qantas was going to retire the 747S 6 months early? They were meant to retire in November this year!

    PS. GET RIUD OF THGE PICTURES ABOVE! IT looks hideous!

  • Chris

    says:

    So Qantas confirmed the sale to GE? Although there has been speculation, Qantas have made no official announcement on this.

  • Guglielmo

    says:

    FYI – For various periods between 1987 and 1990 Qantas leased three B747-100’s, one in the guise of VH-EEI operating for Air Pacific.

  • Anton

    says:

    Why didn’t you tell us earlier that Qantas was retiring the Boeing 747s so early? They were meant to retire in November this year.

  • Peter

    says:

    B747-131 N93117 on lease from Tower Air operated by QF from Dec 87 to Feb 88.

  • Richard

    says:

    I don’t know of anyone who dislikes the Mojave ‘Boneyard’. Therefore, I can’t see how it can be notorious. Don’t ya just luv these pedantic comments! : )

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