On Thursday, Qantas announced it will bring 10 of its 12 Airbus A380s back into service, five of which are set to return to the skies in 2022, while the remaining two A380s will be retired.
It marks the beginning of the end of Qantas’ iconic A380 fleet, following the decided end of the Airbus A380 program, as Airbus nears delivery of its last-ever A380 to Emirates.
As such, now seems an appropriate time to take a look back on the career of the Flying Kangaroo’s 12 superjumbos, and perhaps even deduce which Qantas A380s we see soon returning to passenger service, and which two may instead have a different destiny.
Qantas announced its order of all 12 of its current A380 fleet on 29 November 2000 and saw all 12 ultimately delivered between September 2008 and December 2011.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, between March and August 2020, Qantas moved nearly all of its A380 fleet into long-term storage at the Victorville ‘boneyard’ in the California desert – with a few notable exceptions.
Don’t forget to have your say! Let us know which jets you see making a comeback, and which you think are grounded for life in our poll at the bottom.
Now – let’s get into it.
VH-OQA – Nancy Bird Walton
VH-OQA, Qantas’ very first A380, was officially handed over at the Henri Ziegler Delivery Centre within Airbus’ Toulouse headquarters on 19 September 2008. The jet was named after ‘The Angel of the Outback’ Nancy-Bird Walton.
On 4 November 2010, Nancy-Bird Walton experienced an uncontained explosive engine failure shortly after take-off from Singapore, with engine debris puncturing the aircraft’s wing, and damaging its fuel tank. The tank ultimately caught fire, however miraculously, the pilots on board were able to maneuver VH-OQA back to Changi Airport, with no injuries reported.
A little over 18 months later, on 24 April, 2012, Nancy-Bird returned from Singapore to Sydney following the most extensive – and expensive – aircraft repair in Qantas’ modern history.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, VH-OQA was grounded and stored at Qantas’ hangar in Sydney, before being flown to the Victorville ‘boneyard’ in July 2020. She remains there to this day.
Of course, there are many sentimental ties to Qantas’ very first A380. With a name as iconic as Nancy-Bird Walton, it would be surprising to see her left in the Californian desert at the end of this crisis. However, as one keen-eyed Australian Aviation commentator suggested, perhaps Qantas would consider donating VH-OQA to one of Australia’s aviation museums to be preserved and admired by future generations, should she be among the two not chosen to return to service.
VH-OQB – Hudson Fysh
Named after one of Qantas’ founding members, VH-OQB was delivered to the airline on 15 December 2008, and completed her first passenger service from Sydney to LA as QF11 on 22 December 2008.
In 2019, VH-OQB struck scaffolding as it was being rolled out of the Qantas maintenance hangar at Sydney airport, resulting in one of its doors being almost entirely ripped from its body, however the damage was quickly repaired.
Hudson Fysh was one of just two of Qantas’ superjumbos that were grounded at a purpose-built A380 hangar at LAX, rather than stored at the Victorville ‘boneyard’ in the California desert, and was just last week flown from storage at LAX to a facility in Dresden, Germany, for maintenance ahead of a planned refurbishment.
This could suggest VH-OQB could be among the first five Qantas A380s to come home, and personally, we here at Australian Aviation would be surprised to see her among the two retired.
VH-OQC – Paul McGinness
Also named after a Qantas founder, VH-OQC was delivered to the airline on 16 December 2008.
Paul McGinness performed a number of key inaugural flights, including the inaugural A380 service from Sydney to San Francisco as QF73 on 14 January 2009, as well as the inaugural A380 Melbourne Tullamarine to London (via Singapore) service as QF9 on 18 January 2010.
The jet was moved to long-term storage at Victorville in July 2020, however was moved to LAX on 20 May 2021. The following month, VH-OQC was ferried to Abu Dhabi International airport in the UAE. While Qantas often performs heavy maintenance on its A380s in Abu Dhabi, it appears the aircraft is simply in storage there, for now.
VH-OQD – Fergus McMaster
VH-OQD was Qantas’ fourth A380, delivered to the airline on 22 August 2009, and performed its first revenue flight, Sydney to London via Singapore as QF31, on 29 August 2009. The aircraft was dubbed Fergus McMaster, also named after a founder of Qantas.
Notably, VH-OQD is one of just two A380s that were stored at Qantas’ purpose-built A380 hangar at LAX, and never made the trip to the aircraft ‘boneyard’ in Victorville, California. Fergus McMaster was ferried from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi for maintenance on 7 March 2020, before being ferried to Los Angeles on 25 July 2020, where she has remained since.
Could such preferential treatment perhaps mean VH-OQD will be among the first five A380s to return?
VH-OQE – Lawrence Hargrave
Named after British-born Australian engineer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave, VH-OQE was delivered to Qantas on 19 December 2009. VH-OQE performed its first revenue service, Sydney to London via Singapore as QF31, on Christmas Day 2009.
The superjumbo was initially stored at Melbourne Tullamarine at the beginning of the pandemic, from March to July 2020, before being ferried to the aircraft boneyard in Victorville, where it still remains.
VH-OQF – Charles Kingsford Smith
Delivered to Qantas on 8 January 2010, VH-OQF became the sixth A380 to enter into the fleet. Named after famous early Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, VH-OQF performed its first passenger service from Sydney – Los Angeles as QF11 on 17 January 2010.
In March 2018, VH-OQF became the first Qantas A380 to sport the airline’s new ‘Silver Roo’ livery, after being repainted at the Emirates Aircraft Appearance Centre in Dubai. In July 2020, Charles Kingsford Smith was ferried directly to Victorville, and has remained there since.
VH-OQG – Charles Ulm
VH-OQG, Qantas’ seventh A380, was delivered to the airline on 17 December 2010. Named after pioneering Australian aviator and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s co-pilot Charles Ulm, VH-OQG performed its first revenue service as QF31 from Sydney to London via Singapore on 20 December 2010.
Charles Ulm was ferried from Singapore to Dresden on 2 February, 2020 for maintenance as QF6019, and was later ferried from Dresden to Victorville on 21 August 2020, for long-term storage.
VH-OQH – Reginald Ansett
Qantas’ eighth A380, VH-OQH, was delivered on 30 January 2011, and named after Ansett Airlines founder Sir Reginald Ansett. VH-OQH operated its first passenger service on 5 February 2011, performing QF31 from Sydney – Singapore – London.
From July 2015 to November 2016, VH-OQH sported a special ‘Go Wallabies’ livery. The aircraft was used to fly the Wallabies to London for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. In April 2020, Reginald Ansett was ferried from Sydney to Melbourne, and later, on 13 July 2020, moved to Victorville, California, for long-term storage.
VH-OQI – David Warren
While technically the ninth A380 ordered by Qantas, VH-OQI was delivered just prior to the eighth, VH-OQH, on 13 January 2011. As with many of these A380s, VH-OQI performed its first revenue service as QF31 from Sydney to London via Singapore, on 17 January 2011.
In March 2020, the superjumbo, named after Australia scientist and creator of the ‘black box’ David Warren, was ferried from Sydney to Dresden for maintenance. Then on 25 September 2020, VH-OQI was ferried again to – you guessed it – Victorville for long-term storage.
VH-OQJ – Bert Hinkler
VH-OQJ was delivered to Qantas on 8 April 2011, and dubbed Bert Hinkler, after Herbert Hinkler, an Australian aviator and inventor who became the first person to fly solo from England to Australia.
Again, VH-OQJ also performed its first passenger service as QF31 from Sydney to London via Singapore, on 12 April 2011. VH-OQJ performed its last revenue service to date as QF11 from Sydney to Los Angeles on 24 March 2020. Bert Hinkler was ferried from LAX to Victorville for long-term storage on 7 July 2020.
VH-OQK – John Duigan / Reginald Duigan
The second-to-last A380, VH-OQK, was delivered to Qantas on 25 November 2011, and was given two names – after the Duigan brothers, John and Reg, who constructed and flew the first Australian-made aircraft.
As such, VH-OQK bears the name John Duigan on the port side, and Reginald Duigan on the starboard side. VH-OQK performed its first passenger service – as QF31 – on 7 December 2011. On 2 April 2020, VH-OQK was ferried from Sydney to Melbourne, before being moved to the Victorville boneyard on 22 July 2020.
VH-OQL – Phyllis Arnott
VH-OQL was the twelfth and final A380 to be delivered to Qantas, on 16 December 2011. The aircraft was named after Phyllis Arnott, an early Australian female aviator regarded as the first Australian woman to earn her Commercial Pilot’s Licence, in 1929.
VH-OQL performed its first passenger service from Sydney to LAX as QF11 on 22 December 2011, and its last service to date was QF2 from Darwin to Sydney on 27 March 2020. Phyllis Arnott has been stored at Victorville since 18 July 2020.
So what do you think? Let us know below!