As part of its plan to retire its aging Boeing 747-400 fleet in the next few years, Qantas Airways has sent another one of its 747s to the Mojave Desert for a permanent rest. VH-OJT, a 19-year Qantas veteran, flew its final flight from Los Angeles International Airport to the Mojave Air and Space Port, just 80 miles away, following its normal jaunt from Australia to the U.S. just three days prior.
The aircraft’s final transpacific flight departed Brisbane on Sept. 22 and flew over 13-hours to Los Angeles, arriving just before 2 p.m. After all the passengers had exited the plane for the final time, the aircraft, named Fraser Island, was towed over to Qantas’ Los Angeles maintenance facility where the Qantas name and logo were covered up to prepare for the short hop to the desert.
Three days later on Tuesday, Sept. 25, Fraser Island made the unceremonious flight, departing just before noon for its retirement flight. Taxiing from the maintenance facility on the extreme western area of the airport, the aircraft made the long journey to Runway 25R for the last time, taxiing past its colleagues with whom it used to roam the skies with.
Departing from Los Angeles for the last time, OJT made the 25-minute flight across Southern California, certainly atypical for a Qantas 747 used to flying long-haul flights from Australia to points across the globe. According to FlightAware, the aircraft never touched above 14,000 feet on the short flight. Arriving at Mojave, the aircraft performed a low approach over Runway 30 before coming around and landing for the final time, seeing flight nevermore.
In the weeks prior to the final flight to Mojave, VH-OJT visited California many times, flying numerous times to Los Angeles, but also visiting other destinations such as Hong Kong. Just last month, the very same aircraft flew the final 747 trip from Brisbane-Los Angeles-New York and back, with Qantas assigning the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to the route instead.
The aircraft was delivered to Qantas in December 1999, 10 years after Qantas received its first Boeing 747-400 in 1989. It was equipped with 4 Rolls Royce RB.211 engines and a four-class configuration to serve the airline’s long-haul operations, flying to destinations as far as London and New York at the time.
For the entirety of its flying career, Australia was the only home VH-OJT ever knew. Now, the aircraft joins the long list of aircraft retiring to the Southwestern United States, including the first-ever Boeing 777 aircraft donated by Cathay Pacific to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz. last week.
While the 747 days are numbered at Qantas, relegated to a handful of routes and surrounded by newer aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A380, the retirement of one of these iconic aircraft is always a loss for the aviation industry as a whole. Qantas plans to retire the remainder of its 747 fleet by 2022, with the aircraft disappearing from Los Angeles by the end of this year.
A video of the aircraft’s final departure can be found here.