Last Qantas Boeing 747 takes final flight from Sydney for retirement

End of an era. Qantas' very last Boeing 747 is set to take its final flight to the Mojave desert for its retirement, ending 49 years of service with the airline.

Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce signed the last jumbo at Sydney before departing. The airline retired their Boeing 747 much earlier as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Qantas and the 747

Qantas has had a colorful history with the jumbo. At one period, it became the only airline in the world to operate an all 747 fleet. It also operated various versions of the jumbo starting with the 747-200, its shorter version the 747SP, 747-300, and 747-400. In 1989, Qantas took delivery of its very first 747-400 with a delivery flight that flew from London to Sydney non-stop in 1989. The airline also ordered 60 747-400s that time, the last aircraft delivered in 2003.

Qantas was also the only airline that operated the Boeing 747-400ER which stands for Extended Range. The 747-400ER can fly 500 miles (805 km) farther, or carry 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) more payload, than the conventional 747-400. Thanks to a new auxiliary fuel system, systems and structural revisions.

Two engines versus four

Most airlines now favor longer range twin-engine aircraft over those with four due to operational economics and fuel efficiency. With the pandemic causing a huge drop in air travel demand, airlines favored smaller aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 over the 747-400 and Airbus A380. 

Qantas has also suspended most of its international flights until March 2021 due to Australian travel restrictions.

During a farewell gathering for the 747 in Sydney, Joyce said the last aircraft together with 5 other more were sold to General Electric Co. The final Qantas 747 flight will make a stop at Los Angeles to deliver freight before heading to the Mojave desert.

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