12 Mar 2015
Specialist aviation rescue fire fighters played a key role in the final flight of Qantas’ record making Boeing 747-400 when it flew to the Illawarra Regional Airport, near Wollongong, on 8 March.
Airservices Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) service were on standby, in support of Fire and Rescue NSW, as a precautionary safety measure for the aircraft’s arrival in Wollongong and ARFF also gave the aircraft a ceremonial water arch send-off prior to take-off in Sydney.
The 747, named the City of Canberra, was made famous for its epic non-stop flight from London Heathrow to Sydney Airport in 1989. Qantas has donated the aircraft to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) museum where it will remain on permanent display at the airport.
“For operational reasons, the aircraft was not able to use reverse engine thrust on landing to assist it to slow down,” said Sydney ARFF Fire Station Manager Steve Lamb. “Once the aircraft made a safe landing, at the direction of Fire and Rescue NSW, our crew turned out to the aircraft and inspected its wheel brakes for any overheating.”
Qantas Captain Greg Matthews, who was in command of the final flight, said he was grateful to have the support of Airservices ARFF crew who came down to Wollongong from Sydney on what was a big day for Qantas, HARS and the Illawarra.
“It was terrific to have our Airservices friends on standby supporting our arrival and while we fortunately didn’t require their services on the day, we wouldn’t have been in a position to do the landing without their participation,” Captain Matthews said. “Their presence was an integral part of our overall operations plan.”
As the 747 taxied for its departure at Sydney Airport, two ARFF Panther ultra-large fire vehicles farewelled the aircraft in traditional style using their roof-mounted water cannons to form a water arch for the aircraft to pass under.
“This was a particularly special gesture and we were grateful our much loved and historic aircraft was farewelled in style,” added Captain Matthews.
Airservices provides dedicated aviation fire fighting services at 26 of Australia’s busiest regional, domestic and international airports. They respond to approximately 8000 aircraft and airport emergency assistance requests annually.
Airservices is committed to supporting the preservation of Australian aviation heritage. In November 2014, Airservices sponsored HARS to complete its restoration of the Southern Cross II, a flying replica of the aircraft made famous by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm to complete the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean by air in 1928.