An Incredible Week. By Owen Zupp.
An incredible week has drawn to a close. The last QANTAS 747 has been parked in the Mojave and the associated excitement has faded to a dull roar. Having been part of the crew was an absolute privilege and will go down as a highlight in my logbook. As with any memorable event, it would have been far less noteworthy if not for the people. The ideal blend of experience, professionalism and sense of humour made the crew of QF7474 a wonderfully balanced mix. The organisers of the Sydney event, the backroom brains that organised airspace and crunched the numbers to draw the ‘Roo in the sky – and Jaclyn and her team at LAX. Fantastic – every one of them.
Personally, to view the harbour and coastline from such a vantage point as the flight deck of a 747 was incredible. As an aviation enthusiast, the conflicting emotions of awe and the heartbreak of seeing the forgotten airliners of the Mojave Boneyard is something I will not soon forget. There are so many memories so, as I am prone to do, I made copious notes to refer to record the events more formally at a later date.
Now as I sit in isolation, there is the time to reflect on the week that was. Only now, do any emotions really stir as during the flight we were all focused on the safe execution of the task – first and foremost. Each element, from the harbour to HARS and the sky art to the boneyard had their own challenges. Challenges that had been studied, practised in the simulator, briefed, and debriefed at length before the aircraft ever left the ground.
The realisation that it was the final flight for some of the crew and that after nearly 50 years, the sight of a red-tailed 747 will no longer grace the skies. The contemplation of where do we all go from here? Will the pandemic be struck a mortal blow with a vaccine and accelerate our return to the sky or will this new normal persist and call for us to exercise patience and adaptability.
It’s times like these that I particularly regret my father’s passing. Aside from his wealth of aviation knowledge, he had an incisive intellect – a man of few words who could cut straight to the heart of the issue. From his age of flying in open cockpits, early fighter jets and navigating by sextant and the stars, he would have been intrigued by the capability of the Flight Management Computer. Similarly, he had lived through the Great Depression and survived combat in two wars. He had even seen the devastation of Hiroshima first-hand only months after the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb. What would he say about the current global situation?
Yes, the time for reflection is now that the job is done, although it would be wonderful to reflect with the “old man” over a Ginger Beer on the verandah. Today marks an amazing personal journey drawing to a close. It also marks the day thirty years ago when my father left the earth for the final time.
Rest in Peace, Dad.
31st July 1991.