HARS – Historical Aircraft Restoration Society – is located at The Illawarra Regional Airport in Wollongong and just over a year ago it gained another major attraction with a retired Qantas Boeing 747-400 arriving at the museum.
Back in March of 2015, I was invited with several media and bloggers to visit Qantas Headquarters in Mascot, Sydney. I was there to hear information on the delivery flight of the Boeing 747-400, VH-OJA from Sydney to Wollongong. They explained the delivery flight, operated by 4 crew members with over 53,000 hours of flying experience between them, would take a mere 15 minutes after departure from Sydney. Although the runway can take a 747, it was to land at a slower speed and with less weight.
VH-OJA, The City of Canberra, is a famous aircraft. It was the first Boeing 747-438 (-38 being the Qantas model of the aircraft) delivered to the airline. But thats not all, it made its delivery flight from Seattle to London then non-stop to Sydney, the first non-stop flight between the two cities (and to this date the longest non refuelled flight by a commercial aeroplane).
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to Wollongong (my home town) on the day of the landing, but the stories from friends and relatives who were there say it was truly amazing to see such a large bird land at our small airport.
It was some months later that my friend Bert and I made a trip to Wollongong by train and alighted at Albion Park Rail railway station to take the short walk over to HARS. Entry is $10 per person and on weekends there are aeronautical and static displays of most of their aircraft.
Our first encounter was with a De Havilland DHC-4 Caribou, powering up its engines and getting ready for takeoff. There were several other static displays of aircraft such as a CAC CA27 Sabre jet and a Douglas DC4 (C-54 Skymaster) that we looked around. But both of us avgeeks were more interested in the commercial aircraft.
This still flying Douglas DC3 was built in Oklahoma in 1945 and delivered to the RAAF in May of the same year. They saw service in WWII in Papua New Guinea and operated relief flights during the Vietnam war delivering supplies to refugees. At the age of 55 years it was retired from the RAAF in 2000 and is now one of the stars of HARS.
The Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation, fondly known as Connie is truly one of the highlights of visiting the museum. This particular aircraft was built in 1955 and saw service with the US Air Force and National guard until 1977. HARS Acquired her in 1991 and after 5 years of restoration she flew to her new home, Australia in 1996.
Qantas owned 16 of the 579 aircraft that were built flying them on the Kangaroo Route between Sydney and London. Starting in 1947, the fare was approximately 2.5 years the average wage!
The flight carried around 30 passengers and up to 11 crew and had between 6 and 9 stops along the way. Whilst the seating looks old school Business Class, big, soft, roomy and comfy, they were not lie flat and there was no IFE. While we would gawk at the fare and length of time it took to fly the route today, I imagine the 2-3 days it took back then was simply amazing against the 6 or so weeks it took by ship at the time.
While Connie is an amazing aircraft of its time and flying on one is an experience only a few of here today may have enjoyed, flying between Australia and the UK on a Boeing 747-400 is an aircraft many of us would have made a long haul trip on and still do.
This particular aircraft is famous for not only being the first 747-400 for Qantas but also making the delivery flight between London and Sydney in a record non-stop flight time of 20 hours and 9 minutes.
It was exciting and kind of weird boarding the aircraft, knowing we were not going anywhere! I’ve flown on Qantas 747-400’s many times and I really came to wonder if I had travelled on her before – I really wished I had kept a log after all these years and flights (like one of my idols, Mr John Martin)
She was looking a little tired, poor old girl, but these seats were familiar, I’d sat in them many a times on my travel jaunts.
The Premium Economy and while it lacked an impressive first glance, I’ve not flown in this class with Qantas, so Ill leave the comments up to those who have.
I have travelled in the Business Class cabin in the SkyBeds on a few occassions. They brought back a few memories of a trip to the USA when I first started this blog, It was so new and such a way to fly even though the seats back then were not lie flat but had an angled slope.
Now the upper deck galley was something we don’t usually get to wander through and I really wondered what it was like for the crew on a 14 hour trans-Pacific journey plating up the finery in this small environment….
But when its time for rest, the upper deck crew rest seemed like a cosy place to have a respite from work.
You can’t enter the flight deck, but can stand back from the entry point and amaze at all the controls. From the size of the aircraft, the cockpit seems tiny, yet modern.
To be honest, while we did leave the Qantas 747 feeling a little underwhelmed because quite simply it was a aircraft we had flown on many times and probably will do for a few more years yet, but I can imagine when the last 747 has flown this will be a major international attraction. Overall Bert and I had an wonderful day at HARS, I highly recommend it as an easy day trip from Sydney.
Special Thank you to Qantas for inviting me to the Delivery Fight Briefing
HARS (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society)
Airport Rd & Boomerang Ave, Albion Park Rail NSW 2527, Australia.
FreakyFlier and Bert paid for their entrance tickets independently