Qantas Farewell to the Queen of the Skies… QF747 Canberra – Canberra

It doesn’t happen often, let alone in Canberra, but 17 July 2020 was a memorable day.  The queen of the skies, the Boeing 747-400 came to my hometown airport for one last hurrah.  Booking this flight was challenging, given it sold out in 14 minutes, as the Qantas Executive said.  With my ticket booked, I arrived at Canberra airport early and went to Gate 4 to get my boarding pass and my goodie bag.  The goodie bag consisted of an amenity kit, a Farewell Qantas 747 flag and the Qantas 747 cap.  that was the economy class bag.  Sadly, I was not fortunate enough to get a business class ticket.  They got a pretty nice looking retro bag.

By the time I got my goodie bag and boarding pass, the queen had already arrived and parked at the gate.  The flight crew and some PR people along with some dignitaries came around the waiting area to talk to people.  I felt they were still only talking to Qantas staff as opposed to the general public like me.  That’s what I felt it was like.  With some entertainment at the waiting area and then a presentation for Qantas from the Air Transport Safety Bureau, we all started boarding the aircraft at Gate 4.  Flying under COVID-19 conditions meant that for the first time in a long time, I boarded the aircraft from the back of the plane.  No complaints though, I got a good shot of the plane prior to boarding.  I will say though, those stairs are VERY steep heading to the 747.  It felt so much like climbing a steep flight of stairs!

Canberra – ZZF (Mystery Flight – Canberra)
12.26pm – 1.31pm (1hr 6min)
Boeing 747-400ER
VH-OEJ ‘Wunala’
Pax 263 / 364

Once on board, I waited in my seat patiently while the plane progressively filled up.  263 passengers boarded this last 747 flight.  Eventually the doors shut and in true fashion, we still couldn’t find a few passengers but when they were found, we started pushback not long after.  We were given the safety briefing before we headed down to runway 35.  I will say though the taxi was very quick.  We then took off and boy will I miss those engines coming to full life.  We then headed according to the flight plan (Today the very last Qantas 747 will take off on her final passenger flight, soaring over the nation’s capital for the last farewell joy flight from Canberra. She’ll take to the skies around 12pm, heading north and then to the west to take in the sites of the Snowy Mountains, passing over Tumut, Talbingo, Kiandra, Mount Kosciusko, Jindabyne and Cooma before approaching Canberra from the south to pass Woden and fly over Parliament House, down Anzac Parade, over the War Memorial and towards Mount Ainslie. She will then fly down the length of Lake Burley Griffin and loop back for one final stretch down the lake to give everyone stationed shore-side a second look, before returning to the airport around 115pm) The shots of the Snowy Mountain region was amazing.  It was a perfect day for flying.  On the plane to be honest the people on the window seats would have gotten the best view of the actual overfly of Canberra, as the seatbelt sign was on and we were all seated for probably the best part of the flight.  I was in an aisle seat and while I could see Telstra (Black Mountain) Tower from above and it was lovely, I couldn’t get decent pictures.  We made a  turn and went back to Lake Burley Griffin before landing from Runway 17. one last time.  It was bittersweet, as applause filled the cabin and the cabin services manager said her farewell, fighting back emotions doing it.  She was retiring after many years with Qantas.

We taxied back to Gate 4, not before getting a water cannon salute and then finally arriving at the gate.  It was bitter sweet for me, when I heard the engines being switched off.  It’s hard to explain, but to me (the 747) it’s not just a plane that got me from A to B, but it’s a plane that made flying fun, it’s a plane that I am used to seeing whenever I go to Sydney and it’s a plane that I can so associate with the Qantas colours easily.  Economy Class passengers were asked to disembark from the back of the plane, not before being given opportunity to take pictures with the queen on the other side.  I took my last pictures with the Queen of the Skies before heading back into the terminal where afternoon tea was served and then I eventually, reluctantly left the terminal.

The one thing I was disappointed about with regards to this flight was that Qantas advertised that there would be a guided tour of the 747 by the pilots.  This never occurred.  There was NO behind the scenes peek of the crew rest area after the flight as well.  I don’t know if we had to ask, but there was also no opportunity to visit the cockpit as well.  I would not have minded visiting the cockpit one last time or even seeing the crew rest area for the first time…  I know this will never occur so hey… maybe Qantas could keep to their inclusions or not advertise it if they don’t plan on delivering on the inclusions.

Apart from that blemish, I reckon Qantas did the Queen of the skies proud, giving people a final opportunity to say farewell and thank you.  I am just thrilled to be part of this little bit of Australian history.  This was the first commercial 747 flight in Canberra with passengers.  Ironically it will most likely be the last one as well, with so many 747 operators announcing the retirement of their fleets.

Living close to the airport, I got one last picture of her leaving Canberra as the 747 positioned back to Sydney as QF6161.  I will say, thank you Qantas for making this happen.  Thank you Qantas for all the memories with the 747 (I, like many of you will have many stories about your adventures on the 747) and thank you Canberra Airport and everyone who made this day a day to remember.  I will say if this is my last 747 flight, it’s a great way to sign off on this bird.

I didn’t do a video trip report on this flight as there were so many people with go pros, video cameras and every other recording gadget known to man on the plane.  I captured my pictures and am happy with it.  Please enjoy the pictures and thank you for reading this history making trip report.  I don’t know what my next trip report will be, but it’ll be hard to beat this one.

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