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Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU retired

written by WOFA | October 14, 2019

Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU takes off from Sydney Airport's Runway 34L as the QF99 bound for Los Angeles. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU takes off from Sydney Airport’s Runway 34L as the QF99 bound for Los Angeles. (Seth Jaworski)

And then there were six.

Qantas’s Boeing 747-400 fleet is down to half a dozen airframes following the withdrawal of VH-OJU Lord Howe Island.

The 19-year-old aircraft, which came out of the Boeing production line in January 2000, had its final commercial flight in Qantas colours on Sunday, October 13 2019, when it operated the QF99 from Sydney to Los Angeles.

The flight was a celebration of sorts, with Qantas making all 364 business, premium economy and economy seats available for frequent flyer points redemptions when it announced the date of the flight in August as part of the airline’s “points plane” concept.


All 58 business class seats and 36 premium economy seats were occupied, while there were about 100 spare seats in the economy cabin when VH-OJU took off from Sydney Airport’s Runway 34L a little after 1700 on Sunday.

Interspersed in the cabin were passengers simply heading to Los Angeles as part of their normal travel, unaware or unconcerned with the significance of the occasion, alongside bona fide aviation enthusiasts keen to get one more, possibly final, ride on the iconic aircraft.

Perhaps in recognition of the number of people on board who had made a point of being on VH-OJU’s swansong performance, the announcements over the tannoy from pilots and cabin crew providing plenty of information on the history of the aircraft, the proposed route to Los Angeles and details about the takeoff weight out of Sydney.

Also, the pilots alerted passengers to the moment VH-OJU Lord Howe Island flew over its island namesake, about 425 miles east of Sydney.

Dinner, rest

Some 13 hours after departure, and following some dinner, rest and breakfast over the course of the flight, VH-OJU touched down at Los Angeles International Airport at a little after 1200 local time and taxied its way to a remote stand on the western side of the airfield.

Passengers collected their belongings, made their goodbyes and then headed off the aircraft, stopping on the way to the waiting buses for one final glimpse or photograph.

And just like that, the curtain fell on VH-OJU’s near two-decade career with Qantas.

The retirement of VH-OJU, which was the last remaining Rolls-Royce-powered 747-438 in the Qantas fleet, left six GE-powered 747-438ERs (VH-OEE thru OEJ) delivered between 2002 and 2003.

Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU on the way from Sydney to Los Angeles as the QF99. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas Boeing 747-400 VH-OJU on the way from Sydney to Los Angeles as the QF99. (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas has operated the 747 since 1971

In all, Qantas has operated 65 747s, taking delivery of 57 new 747s from Boeing, purchasing three 747‑400s second-hand and operating five leased aircraft at various points. And for a period between the retirement of its last 707 in March 1978 and the delivery of its first 767 in July 1985, Qantas even operated an all-747 fleet.

The first 747 entered service with Qantas in September 1971, and in time the airline would operate almost every major 747 variant, including the 747SP, the 747 Combi, the 747-300 (which introduced the extended upper deck), the 747-400, and the 747‑400ER (Extended Range).

Qantas has said previously it was expecting to have the last 747 withdrawn by the time the airline celebrates its centenary at the end of 2020.

VIDEO: A Qantas television advertisement celebrating the introduction into service of the Boeing 747-400 in 1989 from the Yogiew2 YouTube channel.



  • Craigy


    OJU has been sold to another operator so will continue flying according to Qantas. The new operator will be announced later this week

  • James McInnes


    Ending of an Era 🙁

  • Sheila Hill


    I love the iconic 747. So sad to see it retire as it has been the aircraft to bring the world together. I want to be on the last flight back to Sydney from Johannesburg.

  • Rocket


    Oh please, must we now start using “tannoy” for speakers… this is Australia not the UK. Give me a break.

    • Lurch


      I agree Rocket. Since when do Australians call the PA system a “Tannoy”?

      • David smith


        Agree gents. If it’s AUSTRALIA it should be called the Redback. After the Perth manufactured PA systems. I believe they still make them in Australia. Must be one of the last things we still make here in Oz.

  • Doc


    As an ex-QF 747 ground engineer, quite sad to see them being retired from the fleet.
    How does one find out when the remaining aircraft will be doing their last flights and how to get a ticket ?

    Cheers …. Doc

  • Laura Barillaro


    I hope to see a 747 -8 in the Qantas fleet. That would be awesome!

  • Who did the voice over for the 1989 advertisement? Marvelous voice.

  • Mark


    As an immigrant I arrived in Australia on a 747-400 & first time I ever visited Australia was on a Qantas 747SP and first time I ever had the opportunity tone on the flight deck of a commercial jet on landing was a Qantas 747-300 & the first time I ever saw a 747 land was in the 1970s and it was a Qantas 747-200 – so me and Qantas 747s have a bit of history together.

  • Shane


    I still think it’s poor form for Qantas to retire the B747 in late 2020 after 49 years of service. It would be like the Aussie cricket team declaring with Steve Smith on 99.
    If they could extend to Sept 2021 they could double up on the celebrations, 100 years for Qantas in 2020 and 50 years of Qantas service for the B747 in Sept 2021. After all, I can’t see any other aircraft making it to 50 years with QF, unless B737 Max replace -800NGs.
    Surely if Qantas can afford to donate VH-OJA to HARS, they can afford to have one B747-400ER soldier on for 9 months past the planned retirement. Even if only held over for special charters such as one last series of Antarctic flights.
    A cheaper solution could be to paint a red tail on one of the recently announced, leased Atlas Air B747-8F freighters. Although claimed as part of the QF freighter fleet, they don’t count until they have a red tail!

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