CEO Alan Joyce said the retirement marked the end of an era in Australian aviation history.
Qantas took delivery of its first 747 in August 1971, the same year that William McMahon became Prime Minister and the first McDonald's opened in Australia, making global travel possible for millions of people for the first time.
After making a scenic departure over Sydney and a low pass over the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) in Wollongong, which hosts a retired Qantas 747, QF7474 turned east over the Tasman Sea to draw Qantas' iconic kangaroo. The result can be seen on all flight radar platforms around the world, providing a welcome spectacle for planespotters.
The arrival of the Boeing 747, in the same year that William McMahon became Prime Minister and Australia welcomed its first McDonald's, made global travel economically possible for millions of people. The plane brought home a record 674 passengers out of Darwin following Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and flew medical supplies in and tourists home from the Maldives and Sri Lanka following the massive tsunami in December 2004.
"Time has overtaken the 747 and we now have a much more fuel-efficient aircraft with even better range in our fleet, such as the 787 Dreamliner that we use on Perth-London and hopefully before too long, the Airbus A350 for our Project Sunrise flights non-stop to NY and London", Joyce said. The plane was loaded with cargo bound for Los Angeles before the aircraft goes into storage at a boneyard in the Mojave Desert, according to the Qantas press release.
"It's hard to overstate the impact that the 747 had on aviation and a country as far away as Australia".
"This aircraft was well ahead of its time and extremely capable".
The 747 "put worldwide travel within reach of the average Australian and people jumped at the opportunity", Joyce said.
The airline's first female captain, Sharelle Quinn, will be in command of the final flight, and said it had been an "absolute privilege" to fly the aircraft for 36 years.
'Everybody in Australia, everybody in the world knows the shape of the 747, ' he told ABC Radio on Wednesday ahead of take-off.
"It's like Aeroplane Jelly and Vegemite - it's always been there".
Today we say goodbye to our final 747 VH-OEJ as it departs Sydney for the last time.