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Qantas pulls surprise Harbour Bridge stunt on centenary

written by Adam Thorn | November 17, 2020

Qantas pulled a surprise on the evening of its 100th birthday when one of its 787s flew over Sydney Harbour at low altitude and ‘blew out’ candles illuminating the Harbour Bridge.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, VH-ZNJ msn 66074, departed Sydney Airport at 6:61pm as flight QF100 and flew south to Shellharbour where HARS Aviation Museum was holding a black-tie dinner in celebration, before heading north again.

The stunt was a collaboration between Qantas and Destination NSW and involved lighting up the Harbour Bridge with 1,300 LED tubes, 126 LED fixtures and 38 searchlights.

Qantas 100th birthday centenary fly past Harbour Bridge 5
On Qantas’ 100th birthday, one of its 787-9s, VH-ZNJ, flew over Sydney Harbour. This photo was taken outside Australian Aviation’s offices by Anna Grbas.

Organisers also projected 60 historic images and two, 65-metre-high birthday candles onto the southern and northern pylons, which were ‘extinguished’ as the plane flew over at 1,500 feet.

Almost 200 passengers, including 100 of the airline’s staff, were on board the 100-minute flight, which also flew over Sydney’s Rose Bay where its iconic flying boats were used in the 1930s and 40s.


The 787-9 used, VH-ZNJ, is fast building a reputation as the star of the airline’s fleet as it’s decorated in a special Qantas 100 livery and was the same aircraft that flew direct between Sydney and London last year.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “Qantas aircraft have been flying over Sydney Harbour Bridge for decades, so this was a spectacular way to mark our anniversary.

“It’s been a tough year for tourism but as more domestic borders open up, we’re ready to put more aircraft back in the air and bring people to see all that New South Wales has to offer.”

To mark the occasion, the Qantas Founders Museum yesterday held morning tea with a birthday cake, guided tours of the National Heritage-listed Qantas Hangar and a “Curator Talk”.

The attraction itself only reopened on 1 July after shutting earlier in the year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Australian Aviation previously reported how the museum’s new light show exhibition, celebrating Qantas’ centenary, launched on 1 July after a series of delays.

The ‘Luminescent Longreach’ display projects a 3D animation across 635 square metres of a Boeing 747. The project’s design was the result of an 11,000-hour creative process.

The show tells the history of Qantas using 3D animation, projection mapping and 360-degree immersive sound.

Meanwhile, HARS Aviation Museum in NSW celebrated Qantas’ centenary with a black-tie dinner in Hangar 1 surrounded by historic aircraft.

The museum said proceeds from the tickets will go towards helping to deliver a 707-138 donated by John Travolta from Georgia in the US to Sydney next year.

Surrounding the tables for eight were historic museum aircraft including the world’s only flying Lockheed Super Constellation, a Convair, the Douglas DC-3 that made the first passenger flight for TAA back in 1946, and a DC-4 resplendent in Qantas 1950s livery.

“Around the world, Qantas is probably best known for its safety record, endurance flying and long list of aviation firsts,” said Joyce.

“But for Australians, there’s nothing quite like seeing the flying kangaroo at the airport, waiting to take you home. We hope to be doing a lot more of that in the months and years ahead.”

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Comments (20)

  • Big Willy


    6:61pm ?

  • Aerosexual


    Departure from SYD at 6.61pm – that really is out of this world!

  • Part 121 Airline AOC operation, 100 passengers, below Lower Safe Altitude breach, low level at night?
    Who from CASA gave this authorisation??

  • Julian Horsley


    I had the privilege of being one of approx 80 P1 frequent flyers who were invited to purchase a ticket om this special flight. It was preceded by a low key, 1920’s themed cocktail event at T3 lounge and they gave all pax some centenary merch plus certificate and special edition in flight menu. It’s a credit to QANTAS and destination NSW how respectfully the whole celebration was done during one of the toughest of their remarkable 100 year history. I was proud to be involved and even prouder to give QANTAS ongoing loyalty for as long as I keep flying. Even better was that I scored seat 1A so I’ll be remembering the experience for a very long time. (happy to share pics if emailed)

  • Max


    I’m surprised Qantas can even afford to do stunts, given it’s claiming to be struggling to pay its employees.

  • Noodles


    Footage of the event for non Sydney plebes please

  • Brian


    QANTAS. Sydney’s overseas airline.

  • Mick


    ‘Surprise stunt’? Hardly, as approval to do so would’ve had to be gotten beforehand, from CASA.
    ‘Stunt’ yep, QF would better paying trained ticketing staff overtime, to process Refunds’ due to customers’, some of whom have been waiting since April 2020, to get their money back.
    Is it putting said funds on the STMM, to get extra for itself, whilst paying customers’ go without??? Slack service from QF, per usual.

  • Marum


    As long as the Flight plan is correct. They may do as they wish with the clock.

    What me worry….Marum.

  • Sam


    Parked planes on tarmac don’t make money it is wasting money!

  • Luke Mavin


    Nice way to spend some money. They just fired 1000s of workers.

  • Stuart Tanner


    Nice if they honoured their heritage and did something around Winton and Longreach

  • Matthew


    Why does Qantas pretend to be Australia’s airline? When have they ever celebrated a milestone, unveiled a new aircraft, made a major announcement or undertaken a publicity stunt anywhere other than Sydney? Just admit, if SAS was available as an airline acronym they’d change to Sydney Air Services.

  • Matthew


    Average punters are waiting 6 months to get refunds for cancelled flight but P1’s get cocktails and free tickets to narcissistic stunts by Sydney Airlines. Some things never change.

  • Alan Lindley


    Sounds to me that there seems to be a bunch of winchers out there, for heaven sakes people lighten up in this unforeseen year.

  • Igor


    What a way to celebrate it’s 100th birthday. Leaving it’s employees unemployed throughout the qantas group.

  • Kym


    I’m afraid all parties are correct and its about trying to get the balance right. You need to give AJ a chance to rebuild an airline that is a very good one but yes he needs to get these refunds done if they are still outstanding – don’t let Qantas descend to the service level of Telstra.

    Sadly I have had three domestic flights in the last couple of weeks and the planes were pretty bloody empty

  • Gabrielle


    Australian’s aren’t very patriotic.

  • Tony


    To Alan Lindley above….

    ‘Winchers’? Is that what a person using a ‘winch’ is called?
    Think you may have meant ‘whingers’.

  • Blue Leader


    Many of the original Qantas pilots came from the Australian Flying Corps from WW1 and many of those initial pilots came from the Australian Light Horse!
    So, yes, the Flying Kangaroo could be said to have first been a flying horse(man)!
    Wonderful to have been flying on Qantas now for over 50 years.
    Will never forget getting onto a Qantas Flight in Hawaii after working overseas for 2 years with a key ally.
    The steward came up soon after take off and said ‘would you like a beer mate?’.
    First time I had heard that in 2 years; almost brought me to tears.
    Turned to my wife, holding our kids, and said: ‘we are home darling!’.
    Almost brought me to tears.
    Because Qantas was so synonymous with exactly that!
    Wish Qantas every success for a safe and efficient role in connecting Australians to the rest of the world for at least another 100 years!

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