Qantas’ final 747 has sensationally left the desert boneyard, thought to be its final resting place, to fly 3,500 kilometres to Oscoda Airport on the other side of the United States.
In a back-from-the-dead twist, Australian Aviation can reveal the legendary aircraft, once known as VH-OEJ, departed Mojave at 11:01am on 1 June as flight K49329 and landed in Michigan at 5:31pm.
The aircraft is now registered to US freighter company Kalitta, giving hope the “Queen of the Skies” could continue to have a flying future, and not be broken down for parts.
It was reported to have been sold to General Electric, with little known as its use.
However, Facebook user Chris Robson has claimed to have captured a video of its “resurrection flight” out of Mojave, which he has posted to the Farewell Qantas Boeing 747 group.
Now known by its new registration N329ZA, Australian Aviation was able to identify the particular aircraft because it retains the same manufacturer’s serial number (MSN), 32914.
Kalitta Air describes itself as a “leading provider of air cargo transportation” and a “small organization with a huge heart”.
Its website reads, “Kalitta Air began service in November 2000 with three Boeing 747 aircraft and the fleet has grown to a present total of 3 777 freighters, 24 B747-400 freighters and 9 B767-300 freighters.
“Capable of air express delivery of virtually any type of freight, the company provides scheduled or on-demand charter service for customers in the United States and around the world.”
It comes despite rumours reported by Executive Traveller that Qantas would sell one of the Boeing 747-400s to General Electric as a testbed aircraft to test giant new engines (such as the large ones used for the Boeing 777X).
Mojave Air and Space Port, meanwhile, is located in the California desert, about 150km north of LA.
First opened in 1935 as a rural airfield serving local gold miners, it’s grown into one of the world’s most notable boneyards.
In total over the last decade, Qantas has sent nine 747-400s there, including five apparently sold to General Electric in 2020: VH-OEE, VH-OEG, VH-OEH, VH-OEI and VH-OEJ (click the links to see the final flights). Prior to that, the flag carrier banished VH-OJI, VH-OJM and VH-OJO there in 2015, 2017 and 2019, respectively.
You can read our full breakdown of where all 747s are here.
VH-OEJ’s journey to the boneyard began on 22 July 2020 when it departed Sydney as flight QF7474 on the first leg of its journey to LAX.
After an emotional take-off to the tune of I Still Call Australia Home, first-leg 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. Hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Instagram users shared Qantas’ official post of the stunt.
— Qantas (@Qantas) July 22, 2020
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.
The following Saturday, it completed its final journey to the boneyard, captured here by Twitter user Sam Chui.
More to follow….