An important chapter in Australia’s aviation history has come to a close when the last 747 jumbo from the national carrier set off for desert storage in America — with a nod to the flying kangaroo.
In August 1971, Qantas took delivery of her first 747, and on Wednesday farewelled the last remaining one in her fleet as flight number QF7474 departed Sydney from Los Angeles for the Mojave desert.
Yet it did so in style, establishing in the sky the shape of the famous Qantas “flying kangaroo” logo. The effect is visible on all flight radar platforms around the world , giving planespotters a welcome spectacle.
The arrival of the Boeing 747, in the same year that William McMahon became prime minister and Australia and received the first McDonald’s, made it possible for millions of people to fly abroad financially.
Their scale, range and durability also meant that after disasters including Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, the 747s have been used for rescue missions.
Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas, said the fleet started a new period with lower fares and non-stop flights.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia,” Mr Joyce said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This aircraft was well ahead of its time and extremely capable.
“(It) put international travel within reach of the average Australian and people jumped at the opportunity.”
Qantas’ first female captain, Sharelle Quinn, was one of six pilots in command of the final flight – which had no else on board – and said it had been an “absolute privilege” to fly the 747s for 36 years.
“It has been a wonderful part of our history, a truly ground-breaking aircraft, and while we are sad to see our last one go, it’s time to hand over to the next generation of aircraft that are a lot more efficient,” Ms Quinn said.