The first Qantas A380 to return to Australia from storage has finally touched down in Sydney after nearly 19 hours in the air, ahead of its planned return to service in 2022.
VH-OQB, named Hudson Fysh, was ferried from a maintenance facility in Dresden to Sydney overnight, taking off at 10:21am local time on Monday, and finally landing at Sydney Kingsford Smith over just under 19 hours later at 3:11pm on Tuesday.
Shortly after landing, Qantas posted this exquisite video of the aircraft touching down on the runway at Sydney Airport, before being brought into Qantas hangar 96.
What a sight! Our first A380 (Hudson Fysh) is back on Australian shores. pic.twitter.com/MN1zphcS3e
— Qantas (@Qantas) November 9, 2021
Welcoming OQB back to Australian shores for the first time since it was first ferried to LAX on 26 March 2020, the flight crew decided to take the scenic route home, with a flyby of the Sydney Harbour and neighbouring suburbs.
Onboard Hudson Fysh was Captain Paul Grant, along with First Officers Barry Doe and David Thiess and Second Officer Fiona Diamond.
Speaking on the occasion, Qantas chief pilot Captain Richard Tobiano said, “The A380 is a fantastic aircraft, and we are very excited to welcome it home today.
“The early return is symbolic of how quickly demand for international travel has bounced back and this aircraft will play a key role in preparing our crew to return to A380 flying operations in the new year.
“Many of our crew have found other jobs during the pandemic doing everything from working in vaccination hubs and hospital wards to driving buses and tractors, and painting houses.
“Over the next few months, pilots will undergo an extensive retraining period including simulator sessions, training flights and classroom courses to prepare for take-off.”
The airline said the VH-OQB saw extensive maintenance checks after being stored, before the aircraft was ferried to Dresden in August for a landing gear upgrade.
The superjumbo will also undergo additional maintenance checks in Australia before taking to the skies again in coming weeks, as part of crew training, Qantas said.
There are some rumours suggesting that Qantas may even enlist the use of OQB on some domestic routes over the Christmas and summer holiday period.
Australian Aviation predicted back in August that VH-OQB could well be the first A380 to return to service, due to the fact that it 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.
At that time, VH-OQB had just been ferried from LAX to a facility in Dresden in order to undergo a scheduled landing gear update ahead of a planned refurbishment. Hudson Fysh has remained in storage at Dresden Airport since.
“After arriving, OQB will enter Hangar 96 where it will spend the next few weeks undergoing additional checks and maintenance by our Sydney engineers,” Qantas said in a staff memo last week, finally confirming our suspicions.
“We’re expecting the aircraft to be available for ground and crew refresher training from mid-December and will have a cabin refurbishment before its return to service.”
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.
Qantas recently revealed that at least one of its A380s would return to home soil before the end of the year, in order to get the aircraft and its staff prepared and retrained ahead of its return to service.
The announcement came after Qantas fast-tracked the superjumbos’ return to service not once, but twice.
The Flying Kangaroo had initially intended to keep its 12 A380s mothballed in the California desert until late 2023, in light of Australia’s fast-paced vaccination rollout, the airline later announced it would bring five of the 12 back by mid-2022.
This timeline was later again pushed up, with Hudson Fysh now planned to return to regularly scheduled passenger service on routes connecting Sydney-LA as early as April 2022.
Qantas said this second fast-track decision was made in light of the fact that demand for international travel, particularly on its Sydney-LA and Sydney-London routes had exceeded expectations.
While the return of VH-OQB is very welcome, it’s also bittersweet. Qantas is set to soon retire two of its A380s early, despite earlier predictions stating all 12 will come back into service.
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.
In light of the news, Australian Aviation looked back on the history of the airline’s A380 fleet, and gave readers the chance to guess which superjumbos are destined to be grounded for life.
More than half of all votes cast in the poll across all 12 aircraft went to VH-OQA, with readers believing Nancy-Bird Walton could enjoy an early retirement, perhaps at the HARS Aviation Museum, or Qantas Founders Museum.
Other top contenders for early retirement included VH-OQH and VH-OQF.