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Qantas’ First Boeing 717 Retires

Qantas’ first 717 (Photo: Alec Wilson from Khon Kaen, Thailand, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

After operating for two decades, Qantas Airways’ first Boeing 717 with registration VH-NXI will bid farewell to the airline in June. The aircraft operated Jetstar’s maiden flight between Melbourne and Launceston on the airline’s launch day in 2004. It has been sold to an undisclosed North American operator.

The aircraft has flown for QantasLink for the past 15 years and is named ‘Blue Mountains,’ accomplishing more than 29,000 flights and serving over 1.6 million passengers in years. ‘Blue Mountain’ was first registered in Australia in 2000, operating its first commercial flight for Impulse Airlines. Qantas acquired Impulse in 2001 and rebranded as QantasLink.

The Boeing 717 was designed for short-haul markets in the 1990s, accommodating about 100 passengers. It resembled the Douglas DC-9 in size and performance, launching as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95. The aircraft was rebranded as the Boeing 717 after a merger between McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in 1997. Boeing delivered the final two 717s to Midwest Airlines and AirTran Airways in 2006.

“It’s the end of an era for those Boeing 717s which have played a crucial role in connecting Australians across our domestic and regional network for more than two decades.” Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Group said in a press statement.

Qantas said ‘Blue Mountains’ is the third 717 to retire and the fleet of QantasLink’s 20 Boeing 717s will be gradually replaced by 29 Airbus A220 aircraft as part of the Project Winton fleet renewal program revealed in 2022. A320s and A220s are expected to become the backbone of its domestic fleet for the next twenty years.

Early Stages of Fleet Renewal

According to Qantas, the carrier’s biggest fleet renewal program in history is underway, and the group will receive a new aircraft every three weeks on average for the next few years. The new aircraft will be paving the way for expanding its network and restoring capacity while lowering emissions and improving efficiency.

In the meantime, Qantas has welcomed two new arrivals: a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a Jetstar A321neo LR. The carrier has received its seventh A321neo LR, with the remaining 11 A321neo LR to be delivered by the end of 2024.

After keeping its head above water for three years, Qantas forecast its international capacity can reach 100% of pre-Covid levels by March 2024. While travel demand continues to rise, Qantas has been working to restore capacity and recalled five international aircraft back into its fleet in recent months. In January, the latest A380 stored in the desert was reactivated and an additional A380 will return to service by the end of the year.

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