MIAMI – Qantas (QF) says goodbye to its Jumbojet, beginning the process of retiring the last of the 747-400 series aircraft. But what does the process entail, and where will the plane go?

Qantas has had a long and successful history with the Boeing 747 series aircraft. The type has helped it run operations over the pacific and to Europe and was the pride of the QF fleet before the Airbus A380.

Qantas has had 65 different Boeing 747 for over almost 50 years.

But now, with the event of Covid-19 and the aviation crisis, the answer is very simple: the 747 is no longer as efficient as the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350. Just yesterday, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner turned 13.

Qantas Boeing 747-438ER VH-OEH. Photo: Qantas

Retirement plans of the last Qantas Boeing 747

There is currently the last one Boeing 747-400ER in QF’s Fleet, VH-OEJ, and its days are numbered. Before the aircraft leaves for the U.S., QF will run three farewell flights: Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

On July 22, the QF Boeing 747 will take its final flight from Australia to the USA, flying low over the harbor and traveling south down the coast, dipping its wings to the first QF 747-400, VH-OJA, currently housed in a museum near Sydney. From here, the aircraft will turn right and head to California.

Qantas Boeing 747-400 in flight. Photo: Qantas

What will happen to the Qantas Boeing 747?

The last QF Boeing 747 will be parked, stripped for parts, and forgotten in the still Mojave space desert. However, that may not be the fate of this last 747 just yet.

There is a rumor that QF will sell of the Boeing 747-400 to GE as a test aircraft to test new giant engines.

Qantas had previously sold a 747-400ER to Rolls Royce for the same purpose. Lee Human, AeroTec Chief Executive said: “Rolls-Royce selected the plane because of the altitudes and the speeds it has to travel. This plane is the right platform (for a testbed).

Not many aircraft can do what the 747 can do as for altitude and speed, so for that reason, it’s the only one out there (for this job).” 

Boeing 747-438 Los Angeles Tom Bradley Intl’ Airport (LAX) VH-OJT Photo: STEVE ALLSOPP

Change it to a Freighter Airplane

There is also a possibility that a freighter airline will snap up the airframe to convert into a cargo carrier.

With cargo commanding such a premium at the moment, and the Qantas Boeing 747-400ER perfectly suited for cargo operations, any savvy freight forwarder could expand its fleet for cheap.