Wing it in the out­back

Buckle up for a flight into Aus­tralia’s air­line his­tory

Central and North Burnett Times - - TRAVEL - with Erle Levey The writer was a guest of Queens­land Rail and Out­back Queens­land Tourism.

BLACK box flight recorders can be red or or­ange in colour and the air cir­cu­lates through the cabin of a jet air­liner ev­ery two-and-a-half min­utes. These are just a cou­ple of the more ob­scure facts you learn on the jet tour at the Qan­tas Founders Mu­seum in Lon­greach.

As the air­line draws near to its 100 years of ser­vice, in 2019, it is fas­ci­nat­ing to get up close with some of the planes that have made it such a well-known international brand.

At first scep­ti­cal about how much in­ter­est there would be in such a tour, I quickly be­came en­thralled by the 90-minute jour­ney that took me be­hind the scenes on the mu­seum’s two jet air­craft, the Boe­ing 747 and 707. It also took in the Catalina Fly­ing Boat and how it con­quered the In­dian Ocean.

The tour was sep­a­rate from the mu­seum tour and started at the 747 with a walk – around and over, in­side and out­side the plane.

The Boe­ing 747 was a gift to the mu­seum in 1979 and, at three storeys high, is the high­est struc­ture in Lon­greach.

With a 900kmh cruis­ing speed and radar range of 500km, it rev­o­lu­tionised international air­craft travel with its in­creased seat­ing ca­pac­ity that in turn led to cheaper econ­omy fares. Each Qan­tas 747 com­pletes about 19,000 flights. It has 18 wheels that make about 190 land­ings be­fore they are re­placed.

Vol­un­teer guide Grant Bunter said air-con­di­tion­ing cir­cu­lated fresh air through­out the cabin ev­ery 2.5 min­utes. This flies in the face of the com­monly held myth of sim­ply re­cy­cling the same cabin air for the en­tire flight. Ex­haust gases from the en­gines reach 600 de­grees and the 206,000 litres of avi­a­tion kerosene needed to fill the tanks costs about $450,000.There are 900 con­trols in the flight deck.

Qan­tas Founders Mu­seum con­ducts seven or eight tours a day in peak sea­son, with about 35 in a group.

Out­side, we dis­cov­ered the se­crets of the en­gines, un­der­car­riage and wings. In­side, we learnt how to arm the doors, sat in the first-class cabin, checked out the top deck and had a peek at the flight deck and crew rest area. And Lon­greach is one of the few places in the world you can stand in­side the in­take of an en­gine.

Also, the tour group learnt black boxes were an Aus­tralian in­ven­tion. It was given the name while the de­signer was ex­plain­ing the sys­tem and was re­ported as a lit­tle black magic box of tricks.

The slide safety raft is also an Aus­tralian in­ven­tion, as is the air ap­proach guid­ance or Traf­fic Col­li­sion Avoid­ance Sys­tem.

The Boe­ing 707-138B is an air­craft like no other. And Qan­tas had the first Boe­ing air­liner sold out­side of the United States.

Af­ter its days with Qan­tas, the VH-EBA on show in Lon­greach was con­verted to a lux­ury char­ter jet to the rich and fa­mous and also as the per­sonal jet of a Saudi prince. Still sport­ing the lux­ury in­te­rior, we saw how the other half lived. The air­craft is one of only four 138Bs in ex­is­tence.

The most fa­mous clients to lease the plane were The Jack­son 5 who took it on their vic­tory tour, one of five tours by the mu­sic group.

Bri­tish Airspace bought it and left it to be scrapped at the es­tu­ary of the Thames River.

A team of re­tired Qan­tas en­gi­neers led by Peter El­liott de­cided that the air­craft would fly home again to Aus­tralia to be put on dis­play at Lon­greach.

This was the most com­plex restora­tion of a clas­sic air­liner ever un­der­taken in­volv­ing 15,000 man-hours. Over a six-month pe­riod en­gi­neers and spare parts were shut­tled back and forth be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia.

The mu­seum shows how Qan­tas started in out­back Queens­land and how it be­came a suc­cess.


The wing walk on the Boe­ing 747 at Qan­tas Founders Mu­seum at Lon­greach and, right, an aerial view of the on the Qan­tas Founders Mu­seum at Lon­greach.

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