Qantas 747-400 gets a new life as a Rolls-Royce test bed

October 16, 2019
Qantas 747 Rolls-Royce
Image: Rolls-Royce

The latest Qantas Boeing 747 to exit the airline’s dwindling fleet of much-loved jumbo jets is getting a new lease on life as a Rolls-Royce flying test bed.

The Boeing 747-400, registration VH-OJU and named Lord Howe Island,  retired from commercial service October 13 with a Sydney-Los Angeles flight and will be used to test current and future jet engine technology.

Rolls-Royce is investing $A70m (£56m) in the acquisition and refurbishment of the aircraft.

READ: First pictures of Qantas’ 100th anniversary 787

The  Qantas RB211-powered jumbo had been in service for two decades and was the last Rolls-Royce-powered aircraft in the fleet.

During its service, it flew more than 70 million kilometres, or the equivalent of almost 100 return trips to the moon, operating to dozens of countries and carrying 2.5 million passengers.

VH-OJU in its commercial service days. Photo: Robert Frola/Wikimedia Commons.

After completing its final commercial flight, it flew to AeroTEC’s flight test center at Moses Lake in the US state of Washington where it will undergo an extensive two-year transformation.

AeroTEC engineers and technicians will convert the Boeing 747-400 from a 364-seat commercial aircraft to a state-of-the-art flying testbed equipped with extensive instrumentation and systems to take sophisticated measurements of engine performance in flight.

It will work alongside Rolls-Royce’s existing flying testbed, a Boeing 747-200, which has completed 285 test flights to date.

“The Queen of the skies will become the jewel in the crown of our global test programs,’’ said Rolls-Royce director of development and experimental engineering Gareth Hedicker.

“This is a significant investment that will expand our world-leading test capabilities even further and will allow us to obtain more flight test data than ever before. “

Chris Snook, Executive Manager of Engineering for Qantas added: “The Boeing 747 has been an integral and much-loved member of the Qantas fleet for many years.

“We’ve operated almost every variant and while it is sad to see them go, the 747s are making way for Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

“OJU has proudly worn the flying kangaroo for more than 20 years and we’re delighted that she has a long life ahead of her to help test and support the development of the next generation of aircraft engines.”

Qantas still has six B747s flying but will retire the fleet in 2020 as they make way for the more efficient Boeing 787.

The “Queen of the Skies” played a major role in opening up travel to and from Australia.