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Australia's national carrier retires last jumbo jet

The last Qantas Boeing 747 traced the shape of a kangaroo with its flightpath as it headed to retirement in a US desert
The last Qantas Boeing 747 traced the shape of a kangaroo with its flightpath as it headed to retirement in a US desert Saeed KHAN AFP
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Sydney (AFP)

Plane spotters and veteran pilots gathered Wednesday to bid farewell to the national carrier's last Boeing 747, as it headed from Australia to retirement in a desert in the United States.

The jumbo jet lifted off from Sydney airport bound first for Los Angeles before its final destination in the Mojave desert, ending the model's nearly five decades of flying for Qantas.

It was an early retirement for the 747, which was originally slated to go out of service in six months.

But the chaos wreaked on the travel industry by the coronavirus pandemic brought the date forward.

"It will be bittersweet because of that amazing history, because of what this aircraft has done to change the aviation industry," Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, ahead of the take off.

Last week British Airways retired its entire fleet of Boeing 747 jumbo jets as part of an industry-wide effort to slash costs and turn to greener aircraft.

Joyce along with around 150 mainly Qantas staff gathered in an airport hangar to send-off the aircraft, with past cabin crew and pilots among those signing the hull of the plane.

The final taxi down Sydney airport brought smiles and waves from onlookers outside the runway fence who waited for hours to see the model, lovingly dubbed the queen of the skies, take off from Australia one last time.

But before leaving the east coast the pilot gave a last salute, using the plane's flight path to trace out the image of Qantas' flying kangaroo logo over the Pacific Ocean.

Last month the carrier announced plans to cut 6,000 staff and ground 100 planes for up to a year in a US$10 billion cost-cutting blitz.

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