Qantas’ first Boeing 747-400, celebrated for having flown the longest commercial flight in history, made its shortest and final journey when it landed at Illawarra Regional Airport, where it is set to become Shellharbour’s first jumbo tourist attraction.
After less than 15 minutes in flight, the specially numbered Qantas Flight ‘7474’, scheduled to touch down at 7:47am, was delivered to its new home with the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) where it will become the only B747-400 in the world to be put on public display.
Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said donating the aircraft to the HARS museum will provide not only a great tourist attraction for the Illawarra region, but also an opportunity to preserve an important piece of Qantas’ and aviation history.
“Having graced the pages of the record books, revolutionised air travel for Australians, marked a huge technical feat for Qantas and carried millions of passengers on their global adventures and home again, our B747-400 “City of Canberra” is very deserving of a graceful retirement as the star attraction at one of Australia’s most prestigious aviation museums,” said Mr Joyce.
“As she takes her rightful place in aviation’s hall of fame at HARS we’ll be reminded of her lasting legacy as a great aviation pioneer, a legacy that continues to inspire and drive Qantas’ spirit of innovation and world class airmanship and engineering today.”
Bob De La Hunty, President of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, said HARS was honoured to receive the jumbo gift from Qantas and excited to have such an icon as part of its collection.
“Our members will be very proud to look after VH-OJA, particularly as so many of them have been part of the Qantas family too. We look forward to preserving this piece of Qantas history for future generations and have set our sights on building another hanger for it.”
Shellharbour Mayor, Marianne Saliba said, “It is a fantastic opportunity for the community to have this aircraft positioned near the northern entrance to our city – a signpost for the initiative and drive of our residents, particularly the outstanding efforts of HARS in preserving such a broad scope of aviation history.
“I commend everyone involved in the safe arrival of this aircraft and look forward to seeing the flow on effects to our city and business community.”
The delivery flight from Sydney International Airport to Illawarra Regional Airport was the first time a Boeing 747 has landed at the regional port. The Qantas pilots operating the final flight worked with industry stakeholders on a number of approvals and training procedures given the flight was outside normal Qantas operations to a non-Qantas port. A number of considerations were factored in to the preparations including ensuring the appropriate ground handling equipment were positioned at Illawarra Regional Airport for the arrival and giving the aircraft livery a “Permaguard” coating to protect the paintwork for many years to come.
The aircraft interior was also given a full “spruce up” with the only items removed from the aircraft being the Qantas Flight Operations manuals in the cockpit, the galley carts that store in-flight meals and the fresh flowers in the lavatory. Three of OJA’s Rolls Royce engines still have significant life left in them and will be used on other Qantas B747s. One engine will be left on OJA, with Qantas and HARS working on sourcing suitable replacements over time.
Over the past few years, Qantas has been gradually retiring its older B747s. Nine of its newest jumbos, the last of which was delivered in 2003, have been refurbished and will continue flying into the future. Since 2008, the Qantas Group has taken delivery of almost 150 new aircraft, lowering its fleet age to an average of just over seven years.
The aircraft will join an impressive lineup of famed aircraft located at HARS including a Lockheed Super Constellation, Catalina, Douglas DC3 and DC4 and a Desert Storm US Army Cobra.
The official handover will take place on 15 March 2015 to coincide with HARS monthly open day weekend.