Anybody following me on social media will be aware that I was lucky enough to be on the final Qantas 747 flight out of Canberra last Friday. Below is an account of my last experience onboard the aircraft that made me fall in love with aviation.
It’s hard to put into words how special that flight was and how grateful I am that I was able to book a ticket. Is it worth the 2 weeks of COVID-enforced home-detention I now need to do? Yes definitely!
The 747 is so much more than just another plane. It’s an icon, it’s the Queen of the Skies and has been part of Qantas and Australian aviation history for almost 50 years. The Queen deserves to be celebrated but sadly COVID had other ideas and the 3 one-hour joy flights last week in SYD, BNE, and CBR are it.
For those of us luckily to be on board it was an incredible experience. It started at the terminal as we watched it come in from Sydney. We then headed to Gate 4 where we were issued with our boarding passes, wrist bands, and a bag of goodies.
Morning tea was served as Qantas pilots and staff milled around and posed for photos. Finally, after a couple of quick speeches, it was time to board the Queen of the Skies for the very last time.
All three flights sold out within a matter of minutes with covid distancing rules limiting the number of passengers onboard. Those with the magic golden tickets had smiles from ear to ear as they boarded VH-OEJ (Wunala) one last time for flight QF747.
The passengers were a collection of aviation enthusiasts, Qantas staff luckily enough to have their name come up in the ballot and ordinary Australians who just wanted to be part of history and share their love for the Queen of the Skies.
For many of the crew, including those on the flight deck, this would be their last flight before they themselves retire. Others hope to be flying again soon on the next generation of modern aircraft.
Whilst the new generation of aircraft have more bells and whistles and offers a better customer experience none of them will capture our emotions like the 747. And that’s what makes the 747 so special and this farewell so moving.
The Boeing 747 revolutionized air travel – it literally opened the world for millions of fliers. No aircraft has done more for our industry than the 747, especially here in Australia.
There was a time, when Qantas was purely an international airline that its entire fleet was made up of 747s. For so many of us our first international flying experience was on a 747.
It’s the stories that make this so much more than just another aircraft. As we came in to land for that last time I reflected on my own stories. In 1985 the 747 took me to America for the first time.
In 1987, on my gap year, it flew me to Europe as a 17 year old and got me home safely. It’s the first aircraft I ever got to fly business class on – and first-class!
Every seat has a story; kids heading to Disneyland for the first time, backpackers setting off to explore the world, honeymoons, family reunions, and the tears of those travelling to say goodbye to a loved one.
The Qantas 747 has been used to bring Australians home in triumph from the Olympic Games. And in times of disaster and tragedy such as cyclones, revolutions, and, most recently, COVID the 747 has brought Australians home safely.
It’s the aircraft that made me fall in love with aviation and I am so incredibly grateful that I got to fly her one last time.
Wunala will head off to her final resting place on Wednesday. As it does, with a lump in my throat, I’ll give it a last wave and say thank you for the memories.
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