The QANTAS 747 Farewell Begins. By Owen Zupp.
The Finale Begins.
The finale of the QANTAS 747 has begun. The Sydney skies were forecast to be grey and damp, but the Queen of the Skies would not be denied. Under blue skies and with fair winds at their backs, people made their way to Sydney Airport where the first of three “Farewell Flights” for the Boeing 747 was in its final stages of preparation.
My wife was fortunate to win a seat on the flight in a staff lottery, while I was on the ground to chat with passengers and take photos. From the moment that we entered the terminal, there was a throb among those that had gathered. Antique QANTAS travel bags, old boarding passes and uniforms of yesterday were there to be seen. Past QANTAS pilots, aviation enthusiasts and families awaited the boarding call that would signal the move to Boeing 747-400, VH-OEJ – the last of the QANTAS 747 bloodline.
Pushed back, clear of the tug and free to taxi under her own power, the Queen was saluted by a pair of fire tenders before it was time to take to the skies. Those on board were subsequently treated to a unique experience in an aircraft the size of the 747. Tracking as far north as the Central Coast, west to Narellan and south to the National park, highlights included flypasts of both Sydney harbour and the airport. Aside from the significance of the day, the low density of air traffic during the pandemic undoubtedly assisted with such generous airways clearances.
For well over an hour those passengers enjoyed the experience of a lifetime, while for many of the crew it was the end of a personal journey. It was all too soon that the “Queen of the Skies” was guided over the fence to reunite with the earth.
The festivities continued once the giant had been towed into the QANTAS Hangar 96. Stories were exchanged, food was consumed, and surplus QANTAS cabin items were sold off to raise money for charity. The crew posed for numerous photos as they showed some of the passengers through the flight deck before more images were captured by the engine intakes.
Outside, staff queued for their chance for one last meeting with the 747. And while OEJ was at rest, it was only catching its breath after this short sprint. There were still two more joy flights to complete before her final journey. Then there will be one last, familiar Pacific crossing before a short hop to the Mojave Desert where those mighty engines will finally fall silent.
The end is near but in these uncertain times, at least there is a finale fitting of a Queen.