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Video: Qantas hands over first Boeing 747-400 to aircraft museum

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, Boeing 747

After over 25 years in service, carrying almost 4.1 million passengers on 13,833 flights over a distance of 85 million kilometres – equivalent to 110 return trips to the moon – Qantas' first-ever Boeing 747-400 today made one last flight to its new home at Australia's Historical Aviation Restoration Society museum near in the NSW south coast city of Wollongong.

It was a textbook landing for this Queen of the Skies, which joined the Qantas fleet in 1989 with the registration number VH-OJA and was just the twelfth Boeing 747-400 to be built out of a total of 694.

Thousands of local residents and aviation enthusiasts turned out to greet the jumbo jet and applaud her elegant touchdown at the Illawarra Regional Airport.

Video: Watch Qantas Boeing 747-400 'VH-OJA' make the last landing of her 25+ year career at Wollongong's Illawarra Regional Airport.

"Shutting down those engines for the last time, on its final journey, was a very sentimental thing to do," admitted Qantas Captain Greg Matthews, who was behind the stick on the short 15 minute flight south from Sydney.

"But I'm equally buoyed by the fact that it's going to be well looked after down here at HARS" Matthew told Australian Business Traveller.

"And I'll certainly come down here some weekends to visit and bring the kids down for a look at it."

Video: GoPro footage from VH-OJA's flightdeck gives you a captain's-eye view of the take-off and landing.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce described VH-OJA as "very deserving of a graceful retirement as the star attraction at one of Australia's most prestigious aviation museums."

The jumbo will be officially handed over on Sunday March 15 as part of HARS' monthly 'open day' weekend.

PREVIOUS | Qantas will carve itself another slice of aviation history this weekend when it makes the world's shortest Boeing 747 flight.

While airlines typically fly the jumbo jet for around 16 hours, this Boeing 747-400 will make a quick 15 minute dash from Sydney Airport to Wollongong's Illawarra Regional Airport.

The reason for such a short hop? It's the final flight of VH-OJA, Qantas' first-ever Boeing 747-400, to her new home at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society (HARS) where she'll become a permanent attraction.

There's no small irony in the fact that this same aircraft – the first Boeing 747-400 in the Qantas fleet – also set a record for the world's longest commercial flight, making a non-stop run in 1989 from London to Sydney in just over 20 hours (albeit with very few passengers and cargo) to highlight the jumbo's long-range capabilities.

Video: Sydney's Channel 9 news reports on that non-stop flight in August 1989 

But 26 years on, it's time for this much-travelled jumbo to take her leave from the skies, with Qantas gifting the storied jet to HARS where she'll join Australia's largest collection of heritage aircraft, including a legendary Lockheed Super Constellation.

Landing a mighty Boeing 747-400 at a regional airport more accustomed to light aircraft is not without challenges, however.

Flying with only a crew of four and no passengers or cargo means the jumbo's take-off weight has been almost halved from a maximum 397,200kg to just 201,000kg, while the tyre pressure on the 16-wheel main landing gear has been reduced from a standard 208psi to 120psi to avoid damaging the runway.

And with that runway only 1,819 metres (1.13 miles) long, compared to an average of 3,000 metres (1.86 miles) at Sydney Airport, there's been plenty of prep work to ensure a perfect landing.

The four-man flight deck crew may boast more than 50,000 flying hours between them but they've clocked up over 25 hours of time in a Qantas Boeing 747 flight simulator practising the approach and landing, while Qantas Captain Greg Matthews, who will take the stick on VH-OJA's final flight, has also flown the approach in a Piper Cherokee.

Flight planning has been assisted by technology which the Boeing 747's designers never dreamt of, such as Google Earth satellite images and iPads loaded with a 'mobile flight deck' app.

On the ground at Illawarra, a 'mini air traffic control' station will use walkie-talkies to communicate with the crew as they make an all-visual approach to the airport while roads around the airport will be closed to avoid rear-end accidents caused by distracted motorists gawking at the low-flying and slow-flying Boeing 747.

Qantas expects the Boeing 747's final flight – suitably tagged as QF7474 – to depart Sydney Airport by 7.30am this Sunday March 8, with the aim of landing at Illawarra at 7.47am.

The flight path will skirt the NSW south coast with jumbo flying at a low 4,000 feet.

Qantas says a GoPro video camera will be fitted to the cockpit to record to the jumbo's take-off from Sydney Airport as well as its landing at Illawarra Regional Airport, to provide footage which will later be shared on the airline's YouTube channel.

Also read: Retrospective – Qantas' first Boeing 747 jumbo jet

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 17/2/15 by Fonga

A magnificient piece of Australian aviation history. A lot of pride in that piece of tin.

2 on 17/2/15 by Hugo

Why the closure of the perimeter road? 

Some kind of safety measure required when landing a 744 at an airport not generally considered 744-sized?

1 on 6/3/15 by watson374

Um, David specifically wrote that "roads around the airport will be closed to avoid rear-end accidents caused by distracted motorists gawking at the low-flying and slow-flying Boeing 747."

3 on 17/2/15 by KG

David - Any idea what the last commercial flight is of VH-OJA? When is it arriving in SYD (or is it already sitting there idle?). I could find only one flight on Tuesday January 13th from JNB, perhaps this was the last commercial flight?

1 on 17/2/15 by jimmylikesitwet

I believe it's been removed from service. They are probably spending some time stripping out ever gram of excess weight. 

2 on 17/2/15 by Dat Plane Guy

The last commercial flight was on the 13th, it's been operating to NRT and JNB since October with 3 SYD-LAX and 2 LAX-JNB flights. It sat idle several times during late December/early January.

1 on 17/2/15 by Dat Plane Guy

I meant 2 LAX-JFK flights.

2 on 17/2/15 by PaulST

I flew in OJA on QF64 in Oct and QF21 in December. While it was nice to get a ride in the old bird, she's feeling her age...I live in Wollongong so I'll be sure to be at HARS when she arrives. 

4 on 17/2/15 by PunditShafton


5 on 17/2/15 by JB8

What time does it leave Sydney Airport?

1 on 17/2/15 by PaulST

0730 due to land in WOL at 0750.

6 on 17/2/15 by UpUpAndAway

looks like I need to be working in the Gong on the 8th of March

7 on 17/2/15 by Serg

It is really pity that 747 going from our skies

1 on 18/2/15 by bossaboy

Indeed.. It's making feel old... I can't believe I toured the Boeing Everett plant in the summer of 1969 when the first 747-100's/200's were barely built !!

8 on 18/2/15 by bossaboy

How sad indeed... I can still remember the day when I ventured to the Minneapolis/St Paul airport to gaze at the first Nortwest Orient 747-400   parked in front of the hangar.... Now Delta, who inherited them, will phase them out in a few years as well....  I'm still a little leery about taking a 12+ hour transpacific flight on two engines... Not too long ago United diverted a 777 to a remote Pacific island due to smoke in the cockpit or something ... Not reassuring although I'm quite certain there weren't even any injuries....

9 on 22/2/15 by gippsflyer

Regarding that legendary non-stop service to the UK in 1989, due to weight requirements (and even with the high-density av-fuel), this commercial flight carried only 23 people total (that's pax AND crew). Can you imagine having a whole 747 to yourself and about 20 so others! No queues for the bathroom on that flight lol.

10 on 5/3/15 by Nigel Dixon

Hi David

Any chance of doing one lap before you land ?

Think of the sight for us here inthe "gong" it would make it a memerable event.

What if I say pleaseeeee

I'll be waving Nigel

11 on 5/3/15 by Hirsty

Sorry to pull you up on this but the image referencing "Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJA in her original livery" is not OJA it's EBA a 747-200. As much as I'd love to see a -400 painted in the retro livery none were.

1 on 6/3/15 by David

Hi Hirsty - our mistake, caption now changed to reflect this.

12 on 5/3/15 by Rishi

Operates world's longest plane on longest route. Has done longest 747 flight (London-Sydney) - almost no deaths - and now doing the world's shortest 747 route.

13 on 5/3/15 by Serg

I came to Australia via Singapore on QF's 747. Is it possible to find if it was this 747?

1 on 5/3/15 by watson374

If you know the date and flight number, you could probably track it down with some effort.

1 on 6/3/15 by Serg

Fine. Do you know any recourses to do so?

2 on 6/3/15 by Himeno

If the flight was to/from LHR or LGW, there is a website that archives most flights that touch those airports. lhr-lgw. co. uk

Just need to find the month/year in the archive. That archive shows VH-OJA as operating QF31 in LHR on September 11 2001 and departing the same day as QF2.

14 on 6/3/15 by Rob

The photo of the 747 in the old livery is not a 400. Most likely a 200 by the look of the engines. Also, no winglets

1 on 6/3/15 by Tom

Rob - if you read the caption, there is no mention of a 747-400 - just an early Qantas 747......

2 on 6/3/15 by David

Hi Rob - our bad, caption now changed to reflect this,

3 on 6/3/15 by Himeno

The upper deck is also shorter with no exit doors half way down the 'hump' as with -400's.

15 on 6/3/15 by Graham

What will be the landing knots compared to normal ???

16 on 6/3/15 by Miles

I fondly recall watching VH-OJB, the original 744 in Wunala Dreaming livery, touch down at HBA back in October 1994. Slightly longer field (2200m) but the crew ended up using only just over half of the runway length anyway (it was a very quick stop!). The takeoff was also pretty impressive, very low takeoff weight and engines well spoiled up before releasing the brakes.

(Found this pic (not mine) showing the 744 at HBA, which I believe was the first and only time one visited.)

At 1800m, Wollongong is still 250m longer than the Rand Airport runway where SAA landed their last 747SP (it was also only 15m wide!). Definitely no chance of getting it airborne again though! Here's a video of that approach/landing.

17 on 7/3/15 by 6continents

Is MEL-AVV not the shortest ?

18 on 7/3/15 by MartinS

What is the definition of "shortest 747 flight"?

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic position 747s between Heathrow and Gatwick, which is just over half the distance of Sydney to Woollongong?


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