Australia’s national airline has said goodbye to an era of aviation that lasted half a century and encapsulated many major moments in the nation’s history. Its final 747-400 plane took off from Sydney Airport. It paraded off the tarmac with an arc of water jet streams to the applause of onlookers eager to mark the historic moment.
The plane’s flight path, which was tracked online, also paid tribute to the iconic Qantas branding – marking the company’s famous kangaroo icon in the skies. The airline’s 747s were first brought into operation in Australia in August 1971. That year the first McDonald’s store opened in the country and Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool topped music charts. The planes made international travel possible for millions of Australians for the first time, but were also used in important milestone moments for the country.
In 1974 the 747s were used to rescue 674 people from the destruction caused by Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, while in 2011 they helped evacuate Australians from the dangers of political unrest in Cairo, Egypt and in 2004 flew medical supplies into the devastation of the Boxing Day Tsunami.
The fleet’s last-ever mission has been to bring hundreds of Australians home during the coronavirus pandemic from the virus’ original epicentre in Wuhan, China this year.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement that the 747s were ‘well ahead of its time’. “It’s hard to overstate the impact that the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia. They have carved out a very special place in aviation history and I know they’ll be greatly missed by a lot of people.”
From the Pope to pop stars, the 747s have carried over 250 million people safely to their destinations. Over the decades, it also swooped in on a number of occasions to save Aussies stranded far from home.
The airline had bid goodbye to its other plane in the fleet earlier this month.