Australian carrier Qantas has now retired the last of 23 standard variant Boeing 747-400 it had operated since the 90’s.
The event officially marks the end of the Rolls Royce RB211-524G/H powered 747-400s variant in Australia’s sky. The aircraft VH-OJU christened Lord Howe Island was delivered brand new to Qantas on January 24, 2000. Curiously enough this aircraft will not be scrapped, nor even placed in storage as is normally the lot of most retired aircraft, especially cumbersome giants like the 747s.
Instead a very particular fate awaits that aircraft as it has been announced that engine maker Rolls Royce has invested $70 million to acquire the aircraft and prepare it for a new career as a flying test bed for new engine technology programmes.
According to Flightglobal, the aircraft was delivered to flight test services provider AeroTec on October 15th 2019 in Moses Lake, Washington. There, the aircraft will undergo removal of the 364 seats aboard before accepting extensive digital testing equipment. According to Flightglobal, AeroTec has indicated that once the two-years long re-fit work is done, the aircraft will be able to operate as a flying “digital hub” able to test engines of various types at higher speeds and altitudes.
For Qantas, life as a 747-400 operator is not completely over neither as the carrier is keeping operational the 6 General Electric-powered Boeing 747-400ER (Extended Range) variants that were acquired in the early 2000s.