Qantas Retires Last Boeing B747

By Grahame Hutchison on Wednesday, 22nd July 2020

On Wednesday 22nd July 2020, Qantas retired the last Boeing B747 in their Fleet, after operating the Type for 49 years. VH-OEJ was the last retirement, and Qantas hosted a Farewell Ceremony in Hangar 96 to mark this sad occasion.Because of COVID-19 guest numbers were restricted to 150, mainly Qantas Staff, however I was fortunate to be invited to attend by Qantas. Boeing B747-400ER VH-OEJ was moved into Hangar 96 for the Farewell Ceremony, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, and Boeing Australia President Brendan Nelson, addressing the invited guests. A highlight of the B747 Final Flight Farewell was a poem written by B747 First Officer Jeff Cowell. Jeff has logged more than 12,500 hours in the 747’s cockpit, and a copy of his poem will be left in the logbook of VH-OEJ when she is finally parked in the Mojave Desert.

Flight Crew: Captain Sharelle Quinn, Ewan Cameron, Gregory Fitzgerald, Owen Weaver; F/O Quin Ledden; S/O Owen Zupp


Hangar 96 Farewell Ceremony - VH-OEJ

The formal part of the B747 Farewell Ceremony included a Welcome To Country with dance, an address by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Boeing Australia President Brendan Nelson, and a poem by B747 First Officer Geoff Cowell 


B747 First Officer Geoff Cowell reciting his moving poem about the Boeing B747

With the Farewell Ceremony completed, it was time to push VH-OEJ out of Hangar 96 in preparation for final flight from Australia

After 90 flights on the Boeing B747-200, -300, -400, and -400ER, including one flight on VH-OEJ Wunala, this was probably my last chance to be up close with the Queen Of The Skies, and think back on some of the great memories I have, of flying on this magnificant aircraft. I also managed two flights on the original Wunala Dreaming VH-OJB

 The Qantas B747-400ER were powered by GE engines, while the B747-400 were Rolls Royce Powered

 A close up of the Nose Gear with those two now historic letters "EJ" on the Bay Doors

 A view of the full nose gear and tyres

 None of the B747 Fleet were painted in the current Qantas livery, because of their planned retirement, however it is some what of an acknowledgement of the long history of service, the B747 has had with Qantas

 The Wunala name and Logo are a reminder of the impressive Wunala Dreaming livery this aircraft once carried

 The stairs are in place for the final Crew to board the aircraft, and fly her to retirement in the Mojave desert

 Guests were both sad and excited to walk around the aircraft one last time

 The last Qantas Boeing B747 Tail to be seen at Sydney Airport

 Hangar 96 is normally the home of Qantas Airbus A380 undergoing maintenance, however OEJ filled the hangar beautifully

 The 1.8m winglets stand tall on this proud day

Qantas Cabin Crew uniforms from the early days of B747 operations

 Guests were invited to write some parting words on the fuselage of VH-OEJ

 Qantas CEO Alan Joyce writing some final words on OEJ

 These were my parting words to OEJ - Joe Sutter managed the Design Team on the B747, and became known as the "Father of the 747". To design an aircraft that has remained in production for over 50 years is an impressive achievement

 More heart felt words from a Qantas Cabin Crew Member


 Once pushed back out of Hangar 96, VH-OEJ made one final stop at the Domestic Terminal to load some cargo, before heading off to the Mojave desert

 This is the final VH-OEJ Push Back from the Domestic Terminal, ahead of a Water Cannon Salute, and a lap of honour of Sydney Airport

 VH-OEJ taxies for her final takeoff in Australia

 ARFF Tenders 2 & 5 provided the Water Cannon Salute as OEJ crossed Runway 07/25





 There were plenty of Aviation Enthusiasts on hand at Shep's Mound, to say a final close up farewell to OEJ as she taxied by

 A late change of Runway allowed OEJ to cross Runway 16R/34L, and head back to the north past the International Terminal, where a good crowd had gathered for some final shots



 Rolling on Runway 16R for her final takeoff on Australian soil

 OEJ looked magnificent as she climbed out from Runway 16R at Sydney Airport

 After takeoff, OEJ turned west, and then came back over the Airport for a final fly by




 From Sydney Airport, OEJ headed up the coast and then made a pass along Sydney Harbour in both directions. A right turn off the coast and OEJ headed for Shellharbour Airport to the south of Sydney, where she made a low pass over the first Qantas Boeing B747-400 VH-OJA, which is on display at HARS

 In a totally unexpected move, VH-OEJ started heading for the US, then deviated to draw a Flying Kangaroo in the sky (seen here on FlightRadar24)


On display in Hangar 96 was a series of historic images of the Boeing B747


The first manufactured B747 at Boeing's Everett Factory in 1968, with Cabin Crew representing all the Airlines with orders for the aircraft

 The first Qantas B747, VH-EBA on an early test flight from Seattle in 1971

 Qantas' first B747 interiors embraced the 1970s aesthetic, most notable the First Class Upper Deck Lounge

 Between 1971 and 1984, Qantas B747s carried the distinctive "ochre stripe" livery

 In 1989, the London-Sydney delivery flight of the first Qantas B747-400 variant (VH-OJA) set a non-stop world record for a commercial aircraft, travelling 18,000 km in just over 20hrs

 The Queen greets guests after arriving on a Qantas B747 to commence the 1992 Royal Tour of Australia

 In the 1990s Qantas commissioned two striking Indigenous liveries for B747s as part of its Flying Art series. The Nalanji Dreaming livery featured on VH-EBU (front), with Wunala Dreaming (behind) adorning two B747s (VH-OJB and VH-OEJ)

 A parting photograph of me with VH-OEJ, the Queen Of The Skies - Long Live The Queen

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