Qantas has said au revoir to its Boeing jumbo jet fleet and has begun the process of retiring the last of the 747-400 series aircraft. But what is the process, and where will the plane go?
Why is Qantas retiring the Boeing 747-400?
Qantas has had a long and successful history with the Boeing 747 series aircraft. They have helped it run operations over the Pacific and to Europe, and were the pride of the Qantas fleet before the Airbus A380. Qantas has had 65 different 747s over almost 50 years.
However, with the impact of the current aviation crisis, Qantas has expedited the planned retirement of the type. Simply, the 747-400 is no longer as efficient as newer aircraft such as the Boeing 787 or (if the order goes ahead) the Qantas Airbus A350.
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What is the retirement plan of the last 747?
There is currently only one Qantas 747 left in the airline fleet, VH-OEJ, and its days are numbered. Before the aircraft leaves to its final destination, it will run three farewell ‘joy’ flights in Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane.
On July 22, the Qantas 747 will take its final flight from Australia to the USA, flying low over the harbor and traveling south down the coast, dipping its wings to the first Qantas 747-400, VH-OJA, currently housed in a museum near Sydney. From here, the aircraft will turn right and head to California.
What will happen to the Boeing 747-400 aircraft?
The last Qantas 747 will be parked, stripped for parts, and forgotten in the still Mojave Desert. Several Qantas 747s are already there, baking in the sun with their kangaroo emblems stripped away by the wind.
However, that may not be the fate of this last 747 just yet.
There is a rumor reported by Executive Traveler that Qantas will 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).
Qantas had previously sold a 747-400ER to Rolls Royce for the same purpose.
“Rolls-Royce selected the plane because of the altitudes and the speeds it has to travel. This plane is the right platform (for a testbed). Not many aircraft can do what the 747 can do as for altitude and speed, so for that reason, it’s the only one out there (for this job).” AeroTEC chief executive Lee Human told news.com.au, back in 2019.
There is also a possibility that a freighter airline will snap up the airframe to convert into a cargo carrier. With cargo commanding such a premium at the moment, and the Boeing Qantas 747-400ER perfectly suited for cargo operations, any savvy freight forwarder could expand their fleet at a bargain price.
As we say in Australia, the Qantas 747-400ER has had a ‘good innings’ and now is ready to slip into the history books.
What do you think? Did you ever get a chance to fly on the Qantas 747? Let us know in the comments.