Qantas Retires 747 With Humor


Leave it to Qantas to have a sense of humor. The last flight of a Boeing 747 in the Australian carrier’s livery departed Sydney and flew a flight path creating a massive kangaroo. The 15-hour flight was scheduled to land in Los Angeles. The 747, the last of two remaining in Qantas’ fleet, will be flown to Victorville and parked in the sand, in what has become an ever-growing boneyard of retired and outdated airliners. 

Qantas opened 2020 with just six 747s still in operation and had already announced that the four-engine “Queen of the Skies” would be phased out in favor of the Boeing 787. But the dramatic drop in travel demand due to COVID-19 pushed that timeline, as it did for many other airlines. Qantas has stopped flying its Airbus A380s for at least the next three years and has announced plans to cut 20 percent of its workforce. Qantas has been using the 747 since 1971.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Even after all these years I still find it amazing that something that large can actually fly.

  2. Now that is a class act farewell to the “Queen of the Skies”. No porn, no swearing, just good ol’ fashion flying giving a fitting send off to a great airplane flown by a great airline. Very cool tribute with humor.

    But why are so many of these retired airliners ending up in the USA? Plenty of arid sand in other parts of the world too.

    • Perhaps it’s due the combination of open space and expertise in mothballing, parting out, and eventually dismantling these old ships. (A Sawzall and pair of tin snips won’t suffice!) Extracting some final value, in other words. .

  3. Yes, the end of an era. Sadly, that era is the one where planes were designed with passenger comfort in mind. 😔

  4. We’ve seen the stories of mega-fans recreating , for instance, the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in their basement or whatever. I’d vote for recreating a 747’s upper deck lounge as a top floor. Convince the GF to dress up in one of those PSA or Braniff FA outfits – YEAH, Baby!

  5. The one airliner I have never flown on but wanted to. Shame to see them go but understandable.

    • I did a short flight in one in February for just that reason. I walked around the cabin for maybe half the flight? The windows on the main level seemed larger that the average and lower, so that the view of the ground below was much better. Strikingly so. The aircraft was flown gently but at odd moments you could sense it was well powered and that the controls had good authority – it felt smaller and lighter than it was. I shot a video of the early morning sunlight circles slowly sliding down the interior wall as the pilots put on a display of smooth, gentle turning. And everything flying action was done with precision and grace – these were people at the top of their game, putting in extra effort for people who were there to enjoy the old girl. I reckon you would have enjoyed it.

  6. I well remember my first 747 flight. I was returning to Elmendorf AFB from a TDY assignment in Alabama, switching planes in Chicago, summer 1972. I was scheduled on a United 720B from Chicago to Seattle. The gate attendant announced that the scheduled airliner was pulled for some maintenance glitch and a brand new 747 on its maiden shakedown flight would be substituted. Apparently it had flown without passengers from Seattle to Chicago and would have otherwise returned to Seattle without passengers, but if we who had been scheduled wished to ride, we could maintain our own schedules. Otherwise, it would be several hours before we could be rescheduled.

    As I recall, only 14 of us volunteered. I think there were more stews than passengers, and we were all treated to first class service. I specifically remember the take off—so lightly loaded, the acceleration was extremely powerful, and the initial deck angle was very steep. Once underway, we were given pretty complete tours of the giant, including the flight deck (security wasn’t the big issue it has become). I had flown down from Anchorage in a C5A, so its size didn’t impress as much as it might have, but it was still a pretty amazing airplane.

  7. I would love to buy one and use it as a second house. My office would be upstairs. I first flew them on PanAm and TWA in the mid-70s. I don’t think anything ever touched these guys, or the 707 and DC8s. Maybe it’s the Beatles/Rolling Stones syndrome. It’s hard to beat the first experience but I can’t get excited about most modern airplanes today. The 787 is great as is the A350, but it just doesn’t compare.