Qantas has been flying the  iconic Boeing 747 planes since 1971.

By Stacey Leasca
July 24, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Qantas

Qantas is giving its fleet of Boeing 747s an epic goodbye.

On Wednesday, Qantas’ last Boeing 747 took off from Australia, marking the end of a 50-year history between the aircraft and the airline. But, rather than simply go from point A to point B, the aircraft instead took a little time to write a special message in the air in the form of a kangaroo, which happens to be the airline’s iconic logo.

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"This aircraft was well ahead of its time and extremely capable," Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO, shared in a statement. "Engineers and cabin crew loved working on them and pilots loved flying them. So did passengers. They have carved out a very special place in aviation history and I know they'll be greatly missed by a lot of people, including me."

According to the statement, Qantas took delivery of its first 747 in August 1971, the “same year that William McMahon became Prime Minister, the first McDonalds opened in Australia and Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool topped the music charts.” The aircraft’s arrival, Qantas noted, made international travel possible for millions of people for the very first time.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact that the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia,” Joyce added. “It replaced the 707, which was a huge leap forward in itself but didn’t have the sheer size and scale to lower airfares the way the 747 did. That put international travel within reach of the average Australian and people jumped at the opportunity.”

Beyond leisure travel, Qantas’ 747s have also been used for a number of rescue missions over the last several decades. The airline explained, it used the planes to fly passengers out of Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy and used them to evacuate Australians out of Cairo during political unrest in 2011. It also used the planes to fly medical supplies in and tourists home from the Maldives and Sri Lanka following the Tsunami in December 2004. And, in February of this year, Qantas used the planes to “bring hundreds of stranded Australians home from the COVID-19 epicenter of Wuhan in February this year.”

But now, it’s time for something new.

“Time has overtaken the 747 and we now have a much more fuel-efficient aircraft with even better range in our fleet, such as the 787 Dreamliner that we use on Perth-London and hopefully before too long, the Airbus A350 for our Project Sunrise flights non-stop to New York and London,” Joyce said.

Joyce isn’t alone in his appreciation for the aircraft. Sharelle Quinn, Qantas’s first female Captain, also shared her love of the planes and their unique history in the airline industry.

“I have flown this aircraft for 36 years and it has been an absolute privilege,” Captain Quinn said.“From the Pope to pop stars, our 747’s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations. Over the decades, it’s also swooped in on a number of occasions to save Aussies stranded far from home.”