Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 4 August 2020

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Last Qantas Boeing 747 flight sketches a kangaroo in the sky

The ‘Queen of the Skies’ traced the shape of the airline's logo off the Australian coast as a final flourish

Qantas's last remaining Boeing 747 traced the outline of a kangaroo in the air around Sydney on its final flight.

The Australian airline closed the book on almost five decades of flying the jet on Wednesday, July 23, when the last 747-400 departed Sydney Airport.

But before it headed to the United States, the plane's flight path formed the airline's marsupial logo in the sky.

Flight QF7474 departed Sydney just after 3pm (9am UAE time) bound for Los Angeles. Captain Sharelle Quinn, the airline's first female captain, was in command.

After several photo opportunities at the airport, Quinn took the 747 on a flyby over Sydney Harbour, the city's Central Business District and the beaches of the northern and eastern suburbs.

Images of the flight path from FlightRadar24 show that the jet beautifully traced out the shape of a kangaroo – Australia's national animal – in the air.

Captain Quinn and crew traced the outline of the Qantas logo and Australia's national animal in the air on the final Boeing 747 flight to leave Australia on July 22.  Courtesy Flightradar24.com / Reuters
Captain Quinn and crew traced the outline of the Qantas logo in the air on the final Boeing 747 flight to leave Australia on July 22. Reuters

“I have flown this aircraft for 36 years and it has been an absolute privilege,” Quinn said.

“From the Pope to pop stars, our 747s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations."

The jet also did a low-level overfly of Hars Aviation Museum, dipping its wings in a final farewell to the very first Qantas 747-400, which is preserved there.

The crew took the 747 onwards to the US where it landed in Los Angeles just after 1pm (midnight UAE time).

On Friday, the jet will make the 30-minute flight to the Mojave Desert, where it will join hundreds of other jets in its final resting place, in one of the world’s biggest aircraft boneyards.

Qantas has grounded most international flights until at least July 2021 because of Australian government travel restrictions. Ahead of its grounding, the 747 registration VH-OEJ proved its worth on several rescue missions to bring hundreds of stranded Australians home from the Covid-19 epicentre of Wuhan, China.

Qantas has been flying the Boeing 747 super jumbo for five decades. Courtesy Qantas
Qantas has been flying the Boeing 747 superjumbo for five decades. Courtesy Qantas

Over the past few weeks, Qantas gave Australians the opportunity to take one last flight on the storied Boeing 747. The airline always planned to retire the aircraft because of its hungry four-engine design, but the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the decision.

The jet will join hundreds of other aircraft in its final resting place in one of the world’s biggest aircraft boneyards in the Mojave Desert

The airline operated three one-hour flights dubbed "farewell jumbo joy flights". These departed from Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane, and gave aviation fans a low-level pleasure trip over each city.

Tickets for the flights cost $400 (Dh1,038) for economy and $747 for business class and sold out 10 minutes after going on sale.

Ross Corrigan was one of the lucky passengers who managed to get tickets for a farewell flight.

He captured this incredible footage of Sydney from the window of the pleasure flight:

Qantas also hosted a hangar farewell event for employees ahead of the final take off. Staff remembered the airline's first delivery of a 747 (a 200 series) in August 1971, the same year that Australia opened its first McDonald's.

With its sprawling wings – big enough to span the length of 50 parked cars – the jet made international travel possible for millions of people for the first time. Qantas 747s were also at the forefront of a number of important milestones for the airline, including the first business class cabin of any airline in the world.

British Airways retires its 747 fleet

British Airways will retire its Boeing 747 fleet immediately due to a drop in demand from the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy British Airways 
British Airways will retire its Boeing 747 fleet immediately, owing to a drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy British Airways

In the same week as Qantas said goodbye to the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, British Airways announced it was accelerating retirement plans for its fleet of the same aircraft because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British airline, which owns 31 of the planes, said it would retire the jets with immediate effect because aviation levels are not predicted to recover to 2019 numbers until at least 2023.

The announcement came four years premature for British Airways, which had recently repainted three 747s in heritage colours as part of its centenary celebrations.

British Airways has been slowly phasing out the jumbo jets, which use more fuel than newer aircraft, in a bid to reach its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make," said Alex Cruz, chief executive of British Airways.

“The retirement of the jumbo jet will be felt by many people across Britain, as well as by all of us at British Airways. It is sadly another difficult but necessary step as we prepare for a very different future.”

A legacy of flight

British Airways operated its first 747 flight on April 14, 1971, flying from London to New York.

In July 1989, the airline's first 747-400 – the same type that BA flies today – took to the skies, and in 1999, the airline took delivery of its last 747.

The 747 was the largest commercial aircraft in the world until the Airbus A380 came along in 2007 and set several records.

It was the first aircraft to have a flatbed seat, pioneered by British Airways in 1999. Qantas used the jet to fly the world's first non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. That 30-year record was only broken in 2019, when Qantas operated a 787 Dreamliner from London to Sydney direct in 19 hours and 19 minutes.

The pandemic has sparked an early end to the 747's lifespan. Virgin Atlantic and KLM are also hastening retirement plans for the jet owing to the lack of international travel demand. A dwindling number of airlines, including Air India and Korean Air, continue to fly the jumbo.

British Airways' 747s are currently grounded in the UK. They are expected to join Qantas’ final Boeing 747 by reaching 35,000 feet one last time when they head to their final resting place.

Updated: July 23, 2020 10:39 AM

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