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Singapore 747 takes off minutes before Melbourne earthquake

written by Hannah Dowling | September 22, 2021

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 9V-SPQ takes off. (Andrew Hunt)
Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 9V-SPQ takes off. (Andrew Hunt)

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 freighter departed from Melbourne Tullamarine just three minutes before a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the city.

Flight SQ7297 from Melbourne to Singapore was scheduled to take off at 9:20am on Wednesday, however ended up departing eight minutes early, at 9:12am.

This change in schedule meant that the aircraft and its crew narrowly avoided being caught in the earthquake that hit Melbourne and its surrounding regions just three minutes after departure, at 9:15am.

The quake was one of the biggest earthquakes in Australian history, and tremors were felt as far west as Adelaide and as far north as Sydney.

Similarly, a Virgin Australia Boeing 737 performing flight VA827 from Melbourne Tullamarine to Sydney departed just one minute after the B747 at 9:13am, two minutes ahead of its scheduled take off at 9:15am, and two minutes before the earthquake hit.


Of course, once both aircraft were in the air, occupants were unlikely to have even known that the earthquake was occurring, as the seismic waves of the earthquake are not strong enough to travel through the air.

While it is not known the condition of aircraft that were one the ground at the time of the earthquake, there have been no reports of major damages or incidents at airports.

Further, it appears that by 9:30am, aircraft on the ground were given the all-clear to take-off.

Virgin’s scheduled 9:10am service from Melbourne to Coolangatta, VA733, was delayed to 9:30am before travelling safely to its destination, while flight QF93 from Melbourne to LAX, scheduled for 9am, saw a 30 minute delay.

Qantas’ 9:30am service to Darwin, QF836, was able to take off on time.

A Singapore Airlines A350, SQ237, was the first aircraft to land at Melbourne following the earthquake, after being cleared to touch down at 9:39am.

Traffic at Melbourne’s airports remains significantly subdued to the city’s ongoing lockdown.

Earlier this week, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced that fully vaccinated Victorians would be free to travel domestically once the state’s vaccination rate hits 80 per cent. Current estimates suggest this target will be hit on 5 November.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s national re-opening plan specifies the end of lockdowns and state border closures once 80 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated – which is expected to occur on 11 November.

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Comments (3)

  • Maurice Ritchie


    I was taking off at Henderson Field, Honiara when a 7.8 earthquake hit. It wasn’t really noticeable.

  • Steve Cole


    wow – lucky they got off the ground early then, so their coffees werent spilled.

  • Neil


    Lucky i wasn’t on that Qantas flight QF836 Melbourne to Darwin at 9.30am.Might have been a course of anxiety,and worry.I have flown several times on this flight,well before Covid even occured of course!

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