The white jumping Kangaroo centered on a red triangle must be one of the most iconic and easily identifiable Airline logos around. Aviation enthusiast or not, if asked, one could easily identify it with Australia. Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier has been flying since 1921, making it one of the world’s oldest airlines and has been operating Boeing aircraft for more than 50 years.
     Tracing back its roots to as far as the 20s, its colours have been painted on several aircraft types. On July 1959 it achieved a milestone by starting operations with jet aircraft, on the shape of the venerable B707. Initial flights were operated to US and UK. By late 60s, Qantas started evaluating what would become a true icon for both, commercial aviation and airline, the Boeing 747. An order for 4 B747-200B was place in 1967 and commercial operations started on September 1971. The 4 engine aircraft operated with the B707 until their dismiss in 1979. When this happened Qantas became an all B747 operator, the only one in the world at that time.

     Qantas operated all 747 versions, from 100s to the 400s, even operating from 1981 till 2002 a pair (VH-EAA and VH-EAB) of its shorter version, the B747SP. Both aircraft were initially deployed on the route to neighboring Wellington, New Zealand, and later on the lucrative Sydney-Los Angeles as well as Nagoya, although this one with a stop in Cairns. They also flew for Australia Asia Airlines, a subsidiary airline created for the flights between Australia and Taiwan, due to political reasons imposed by China. B747-300 operations started in 1984 and it’s fleet saw 6 airframes operating with the flag carrier. In 2007, upon my 1st visit to Sydney, Qantas operated 4 B747-300, one of the last major airline to operate this type. Lucky for me I’ve spotted all of them. They have been withdraw from service and are now registered in countries as Burkina Faso and Gambia.

VH-EBW   B747-338 QANTAS

VH-EBX   B747-338   QANTAS

Qantas last revenue service with the type was operated on December 29 flying back to Melbournefrom Los Angeles with a stop in Auckland. By then it’s fleet had flew more then 524,000 hours

      By 1989 Qantas received their first B747-400, a type that still operates. The delivery of one of its first B747 set a world record by making the longest non-stop flight ever. It flew 18,001Km from London to Sydney in 20 hours and 9 minutes. As this was a delivery flight, there were no passengers or cargo aboard thus the record. On November 28, 2000, Boeing launched the B747-400ER program with an additional range of 805Km then the standard -400. Qantas ordered 6 aircraft and was the only airline to do so. Deliveries started on October 2002 and ended in July 2003 with the acceptance of its last B747, VH-OEJ. This last B747 wore the Wunala Dreaming colours, by far one of the most eye-catching liveries used by any airliner.
VH-OEJ   B747-438/ER   QANTAS

     Recent years have been challenging years for Qantas and its B747. 6 airframes were retired and placed in storage, due to a partnership with British Airways on the Sydney-London route, which sees the British airline flying its own aircraft code sharing with Qantas. The A380 is set to be the replacement airliner for the B747 and with that in mind all Jumbo Jets will have left the fleet by 2021. Since 1971 Qantas operated a total of 65 B747 as follow:

·         3   x B747-100
·         23 x B747-200
·         6   x B747-300
·         31 x B747-400
·         2   x B747SP

VH-OEB   B747-48E   QANTAS

VH-OEC   B747-4H6   QANTAS

VH-OJJ   B747-438   QANTAS

VH-OJP   B747-438   QANTAS

VH-OJR   B747-438   QANTAS

VH-OJU   B747-438   QANTAS

     But it’s not only Qantas who is pulling B747 out of its operations at Sydney. Singapore Airlines and British Airways have replaced their B747 flights by A380 and B777. United is the latest to announce a change. Its Los Angeles – Sydney – Melbourne route will be flown by B777-200ER effective 30 March 2014. The B747 served well with Qantas, as it did with many airlines around the globe, however in times where high fuel prices and budget cuts are on everyday airlines life, it will be rarer to see the Jumbo Jets lifting up to the sky, leaving no one indifferent to it’s grace.

Rui Miguel