QF053D Boeing 747-238B VH-EBD City of Perth touches down on Runway 04 at Brisbane Eagle Farm on 12 December 1971. This was the first time a 747 visited Brisbane and indeed it was the first widebody of any type to visit Brisbane. (Picture: Kodak Ektachrome by Ron Cuskelly)

QF747 Boeing 747-438(ER) VH-OEJ Wunala touches down on Brisbane's Runway 19L on 15 July 2020. This was to be the last landing of a Qantas Boeing 747 at Brisbane.(Picture: Mick Raftery)


The widebody era began for Brisbane with the arrival of the fourth Qantas Boeing 747-238B VH-EBD City of Perth on 12 December 1971 under the callsign "Qantas 053D". The aircraft was on its delivery flight after being accepted from Boeing at Paine Field, Everett at 1830 hours local on 8 December 1971. The following table shows the times for the delivery flight.


(Time Zone)
Time Z
Time Z
Time K
Depart Everett (-8)
Arrive San Francisco (-8)
Depart San Francisco (-8)
Arrive Honolulu (-10)
Depart Honolulu (-10)
Cross Dateline
Arrive Brisbane (+11)
Note 3
Depart Brisbane (+11)
Arrive Sydney (+11)


Z = Zulu/GMT/UTC
K = Local
Queensland observed Daylight Saving Time in 1971/72
Actual times not available


Although the flight was not available for commercial sale, approximately 140 guests travelled on various sectors. Included were representatives from Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Air Canada, United Airlines, Lockheed and a contingent from the Seattle Australian Club as well as several Qantas staff. The Mayor of Toowoomba travelled from Honolulu to Brisbane on the flight. In those simpler times before Business Class was invented, the aircraft was configured for 56 First Class and 300 Economy Class. A planning notice (Source: 1) listed the operating crew Everett-Brisbane as follows.


Captain in Command Captain C.G. Fox
First Officer Captain L.W. Clark
Second Officer L.C. Dawson
Engineer Officer E.W. Fargas
Engineer Officer A.J. Forsythe
Flight Service Director A.J. Williams
Chief Steward E. Duker
Senior Steward G.T. Barr
Flight Steward B.F. Gray
Flight Steward W.K. Turner
Flight Steward S.J. Shaw
Flight Steward P.A. Hyman
Flight Steward J. Melrose
Flight Steward L. Cerone
Flight Steward J.W. Mullally
Flight Steward J.E. Dennett
Flight Hostess P.M. Yates
Flight Hostess K.J. Heery

A photograph taken on arrival at Brisbane confirms
that the listed cabin crew did operate the flight.


During its extended transit in Brisbane the aeroplane was opened for public inspection. Passengers who were continuing to Sydney were offered hotel accommodation and sightseeing tours of Brisbane and the Gold Coast. At the time, Queensland was experiencing a brief flirtation with Daylight Saving Time. The aircraft departed for Sydney at 1845 local time with the author as a passenger.


VH-EBD backtracking on Runway 22 after landing on 04. The gentleman in the brown shirt is allowed to stand in front of the camera because it's his aerodrome. This is Jack Bashford who was the DCA Airport Manager. The gentleman in the white shirt is an ABC cameraman who was using a Bell & Howell cine camera. Picture: Ron Cuskelly


VH-EBD backtracking on Runway 22 after landing on 04.


VH-EBD was parked on an area of hardstand adjacent to TAA's Hangar 8 which was then the largest hangar at Eagle Farm. At the time, Brisbane did not have any equipment to handle a 747. The Hastings Deering stairs, which had been designed for the 707, had to use an adapter to bridge the gap to the 747 door sill. Baggage for passengers disembarking in Brisbane had to be bulk loaded as there was no equipment for handling containers. The rear toilet complex was closed and placarded as unusable because Brisbane did not have a toilet service vehicle that could reach the service point. The Qantas Volkswagen Kombi in the foreground wears the Queensland number plate PIW707.
Picture: Ron Cuskelly


The cabin crew who operated VH-EBD from Seattle to Brisbane. Click on the image for names.
Picture: Ron Cuskelly



(Click to open the brochure)


Qantas had elected to wait for the 747-200 model, which it promoted as the 747B, indeed even going one better and calling it The Better One! Qantas went on to operate practically every version of the 747 and for a time proudly promoted itself as an all 747 airline. In 1988, when the company was desperately short of capacity, it did operate several 747-100s. Aircraft were leased from Aer Lingus and Tower Air but only one 747-100 ever wore Qantas colours and an Australian registration. This was a former American Airlines 747-123 which served Qantas and Air Pacific as the often forgotten VH-EEI although those who do remember handling the aeroplane probably wish that they could forget it!

Qantas also operated three 747-238B Combi aircraft which were able to carry cargo containers at the rear of the main deck. Two short-fuselage 747SP (Special Performance) were acquired in 1981, curiously to serve Wellington, New Zealand after the withdrawal of Air New Zealand's DC-8s left that carrier without an aircraft that could provide international services to its own capital city. With the introduction of the Boeing 767, the Qantas SPs were finally freed to operate non-stop trans-Pacific services for which the aeroplane was originally designed.

In 1984 Qantas took delivery of its first 747-338 which was originally marketed by the manufacturer as the Stretched Upper Deck until it emerged that the acronym SUD was more commonly used to denote Sudden Unexpected Death! Henceforth the aeroplane became known as the EUD (Extended Upper Deck). One contemporary writer observed that what was originally intended as a means of reducing drag behind the elevated flight deck could now carry almost as many passengers as a Boeing 737!

In preparation for the arrival of the first 747-400 in 1989, the company conducted a competition amongst its staff to create a marketing name that recognised the long range of the new aeroplane. The competition was won by Captain Len Krawczyk and henceforth the Qantas 747-438 became known as the Longreach. It was a good name and totally appropriate but unfortunately its prominence on every Qantas 747-438 led many passengers to record in their travel diaries that they had flown on the "City of Longreach".

Meanwhile, the two 747SP soldiered on in Qantas service but ironically, what was once the world's longest range airliner, had been relegated to operating shuttles between Sydney and Brisbane! By 2002 both SPs had been withdrawn from service and broken up at Marana, Arizona.

One version of the 747 that never entered the Qantas fleet was a dedicated freighter. However, several versions of the 747F have served the company under lease arrangements which remain in place at the time of writing.

The final incarnation of Joe Sutter's masterpiece to serve Qantas was the 747-438ER (Extended Range) which incorporated an auxiliary fuel tank in what was previously Compartment 2 of the lower lobe. Qantas was the launch customer for this variant.

As the Qantas fleet began to reflect a preponderance of aircraft from the other manufacturer of airliners, clearly the writing was on the wall for the 747 which by this time, had truly earned the title Queen of the Skies.

Then, as 2019 was drawing to a close, came the Coronavirus pandemic. This had a devastating effect on the world's airlines as their business model was ripped from under them overnight. It is useful to reflect that the last time there was a pandemic, there were no airlines to speak of. This was uncharted territory. As airlines searched for things that they could do to survive, the obvious decision for Qantas was to accelerate the retirement of the 747. Seemingly this would have happened with indecent haste had it not been for the intervention of people in the company who still embrace the magic of flight and don't see aeroplanes as merely an inconvenient cost centre. The Queen of the Skies would have her lap of honour. Brisbane's turn came on 15 July 2020.



The Last 747 out of Brisbane's already gone.

As remembered by the author who was a passenger on the flight


I am convinced that there had to be an element of divine providence that allowed me the honour of being on board the last Qantas Boeing 747 out of Brisbane.

Like much of Australia, I had fingers poised over the keyboard when the farewell flights went on sale. I had progressed to the payment page when the system crashed. The flights sold out very quickly. I've heard estimates ranging from 4 to 18 minutes. Given that I was on the first Qantas 747 out of Brisbane on 12th December 1971 (the delivery flight of VH-EBD) I really wanted to collect the other bookend. I was extremely disappointed to say the least.

When the farewell flights were first announced, I put together a list of 747 firsts and lasts and sent it to Qantas Media suggesting that they might find it useful in the lead up to the Brisbane flight. I heard no more about it. Then at about 6pm on the eve of the Brisbane flight on 15th July, I received a telephone call from Qantas Media. They wanted to know if I could join the flight as a guest of Qantas. I'm guessing they needed an historical hook for the media and my boarding pass for the first 747 fit the bill. During the flight, I had several total strangers come up to me asking if they could take a photo, not of me but of my 1971 boarding pass!

Before departure, I made it known to the tech crew that; Mr Sutter will be flying with us today. I had with me my signed copy of the late Joe Sutter's book about his role as leader of the 747 design team. So if only in the form of his signature, Mr Sutter was with us on the final 747 out of Brisbane.

The flight departed from Runway 19L and performed an orbit over the CBD before heading south to the border coastal before heading north to abeam Caloundra before returning to Brisbane via Moreton Island and a flyby of the tower prior to landing on 19L.

I couldn't describe the flight as a joyous occasion for there was genuine sadness. Apart from the experience of being on the receiving end of a water cannon salute for the first time, my enduring and most touching memory is of lines of airport workers waving farewell to the Queen of the Skies as she taxied away from the Domestic Terminal. That this was not just another routine flight became clear when the aircraft returned to Brisbane, not to the passenger terminal but directly to the hangar. Clearly it was the end of an era.



The author's Bookend Boarding Passes


Joe Sutter's book travelled on the last 747 out of Brisbane.


First Officer Peter Ferguson on the flight deck of VH-OEJ with Joe Sutter's book. (Picture: Ron Cuskelly)


QF747 VH-OEJ receives a fitting salute from Brisbane Rescue and Fire Fighting Services while taxying for the farewell flight on 15 July 2020. (Picture: Mick Raftery)


QF747 VH-OEJ leaps into the air from Brisbane's Runway 19L on 15 July 2020. (Picture: Mick Raftery)


QF747 VH-OEJ overflys Brisbane Airport on 15 July 2020. (Picture: Mick Raftery)


Boeing 747-438 VH-OEJ Wunala is surrounded by admiring passengers at the Qantas Engineering base at Brisbane Airport on 15 July 2020 after operating the farewell flight. (Picture: Ron Cuskelly)


Later in the day, after all the admirers had finally torn themselves away from the aeroplane with a parting pat, VH-OEJ positioned empty to Sydney thus bringing to a close an era in Australia's aviation history.

A week later, on 22 July, it was time for the real goodbye when VH-OEJ departed Australia permanently. Enthusiasts who loved the 747 and hoped that this day might never come, would have tried to maintain a dignified composure as the last Qantas 747 disappeared over the horizon.

Then she went and did this ...



Her crew did her proud


Seemingly, Kimberly-Clark had anticipated the pride and sadness that would follow.



First ever Boeing 747 (of any carrier) to visit Brisbane. Boeing 747-238B VH-EBD City of Perth arrived on its delivery flight from Seattle as QF053D. The aircraft was open for public inspection, departing for Sydney later thew same day.
The original International Terminal (Hangar 5 wartime igloo) closed.
The Temporary International Terminal (Boronia Road) opened.
Next visit by a Qantas 747. B747-238B VH-EBB City of Melbourne operated QF275 Hong Kong-Brisbane-Sydney substituting for B707 due to commercial demand. The aircraft operated from the Temporary ITB at Boronia Road.
The first regular scheduled 747 through Brisbane was British Airways 747-136 G-AWNO which arrived from Perth as BA814 and departed for Sydney as BA889A.
The first regular scheduled Qantas 747 was 747-238B VH-EBA City of Canberra which operated QF723 Sydney-Brisbane-Darwin-Singapore.
The first Qantas 747SP-38 VH-EAA City of Gold Coast - Tweed arrived from Coolangatta as QF145. The aircraft operated two promotional flights on 26JAN and positioned to Sydney as QF148.
A much-publicised Qantas inaugural 747SP flight to Wellington by VH-EAA was cancelled owing to industrial action by cabin crew.
Scheduled Qantas 747SP services to Brisbane finally commenced when VH-EAA arrived from Wellington as QF62 and departed to Auckland as QF32.
Boeing 747-136 G-AWND of British Airways operated BA12 Brisbane-Darwin-Singapore with a record passenger load for Brisbane of 463 passengers (including 8 infants). It is believed that this record still stands.
The first regular scheduled Air New Zealand 747 flight was operated by 747-219B ZK-NZV as TE137/138 Auckland-Brisbane-Auckland.
The first regular scheduled Thai Airways International 747 service was operated by 747-2D7B HS-TGA as TG987/988 Bangkok-Brisbane-Sydney.
Not to be outdone by Thai, the regular Philippine Airlines DC-10 service PR213 Manila-Brisbane-Sydney was operated by 747-2F6B N741PR, subsequently reverting to a DC-10 service.
The first regular scheduled Cathay Pacific flight was operated by 747-267B VR-HKG as CX101/100 Hong Kong-Brisbane-Sydney.
The first Qantas 747-338 visited Brisbane when VH-EBU operating QF2 Singapore-Sydney diverted to Brisbane due to fog in Sydney.
The first regular scheduled Qantas 747-338 was operated by VH-EBU as QF21 Sydney-Brisbane-Narita.
The first scheduled departure from Brisbane's new runway 01/19 (now 01R/19L) was Qantas Boeing 747-238B VH-EBJ City of Newcastle which operated QF27 Sydney-Brisbane-Hong Kong. Actual departure time: 1215 local. Passengers: 410. Take-Off Weight: 331010 kgs. Runway 01. Loadsheet completed by R.J. Cuskelly.
The first 747-400 to visit Brisbane was British Airways 747-436 G-BNLA City of London operating BA11/BA12 Sydney-Brisbane-Sydney.
The first Qantas 747-400 to visit Brisbane. Qantas Boeing 747-438 VH-OJA City of Canberra operated a training flight QF9502/9503 Sydney-Brisbane-Sydney.
The first Air New Zealand 747-400 service to Brisbane was operated by 747-419 ZK-NBT as NZ131/NZ138 Auckland-Brisbane-Auckland.
The first regular scheduled Qantas 747-400 was Boeing 747-438 VH-OJK City of Newcastle which operated QF27 Sydney-Brisbane-Hong Kong. Earlier, VH-OJB operated QF50 Nagoya-Brisbane-Sydney on 10AUG90 but this is believed to have been a substitution.
The first Cathay Pacific 747-400 service was operated by 747-467 VR-HOT Hong Kong-Brisbane-Hong Kong.
The first Singapore Airlines 747-400 service was operated by 747-412 9V-SMQ as SQ227 Singapore-Melbourne-Brisbane and SQ228 Brisbane-Melbourne-Singapore.
The first service by a Malaysian Airline System 747-400 was operated by 747-4H6 9M-MPB Kuala Lumpur-Brisbane-Auckland-Brisbane-Kuala Lumpur.
The first Ansett Airlines 747-312 VH-INJ visited Brisbane.
The Temporary International Terminal (Boronia Road) closed. (This is now the Logistics Terminal). Qantas Boeing 747-338 VH-EBT City of Wagga Wagga arrived from Sydney as QF112 at 2341 with 59 passengers. The aircraft was subsequently towed to the new terminal from where it was scheduled to depart for Cairns as QF69 at 0845 on 12SEP.
The new (current) International Terminal opened. First arrival was Qantas Boeing 747-338 VH-EBW City of Tamworth operating QF52 from Singapore arriving at 0450. QF52 became the first departure when it left for Sydney at 0645.
EVA Air's first 747 service was operated by 747-45E(M) N408EV.
747-438ER VH-OEJ Wunala operated the last Qantas 747 service from Brisbane.
This table does not pretend to record every significant 747 movement through Brisbane but it does provide a useful overview of most of the firsts and lasts involving the Boeing 747. (Source: 3)


Compiled by Ron Cuskelly, October 2021


Planning Notice XAF.239/71 issued 03DEC71 by Qantas Operations Analysis Department.
Qantas Brisbane Movement Log



Original issue. Thanks to Mick Raftery, David Long, Stephen Berry and Ed Ronsisvalle.