Qantas Marks 50 Years of the Jet Age
Sydney, 29 July 2009
Qantas today marked 50 years since it operated the world's first commercial passenger jet service across the Pacific.
Flight EM774, the first to be operated by Qantas' new Boeing 707 aircraft, departed Sydney Airport at 3.35pm on 29 July 1959, bound for San Francisco, via Nadi and Honolulu.
Qantas Chief Executive Officer, Mr Alan Joyce, said the anniversary was a timely reminder of the airline's longevity on the Australia-US route.
"Qantas has a proud history on the Pacific route, having flown uninterrupted between Australia and the United States for 55 years," Mr Joyce said.
"It's a long and challenging route. Other airlines have come and gone, but our commitment to providing air links between the two countries has never wavered.
"Today we remain the largest carrier on the Pacific, operating 43 return services every week from eastern Australia and from Auckland to the US cities of Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco and offering an extended network of 36 destinations across the USA available through our network partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines."
Mr Joyce said Qantas had always been an early adopter of new aircraft technologies - as the first non-US airline to operate B707 jet aircraft 50 years ago, having invented the Business Class cabin in 1979 and, most recently, as a lead buyer of the new generation Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
"Qantas has always looked to the future and sought to innovate," he said.
"Just as 50 years ago we made history and revolutionised the way Australians travelled to other continents, today we continue to embrace new aircraft technologies that drive further enhancements in safety, environmental performance and customer comfort.
"We're proud of our standing as the world's most experienced airline and we're working hard to be the safest, most punctual and customer-driven carrier anywhere in the world."
Qantas will mark the 50th anniversary of the inaugural passenger jet flight today with a special ceremony at Sydney International Terminal prior to the departure of the QF73 Sydney-San Francisco service at 1.55pm.
* The four-engine Boeing 707 replaced propeller-driven, piston-engine aircraft such as the Lockheed Super Constellation L1049 "Connies", slashing travel times by almost half and revolutionising commercial aviation with new levels of passenger comfort.
* The Constellation was limited in its altitude to 20,000 feet (6096m) and a cruising speed of 335 mph (539 kph), often in turbulent conditions. By contrast, the turbo-jet engine of the B707 enabled still-air cruising at 550 mph (885 kph) at altitudes between 35,000 feet and 40,000 feet (10,668 - 12,192m).
* Australian travellers joined the jet era 50 years ago when Qantas flight EM774 departed Sydney Airport at 3.35pm on 29 July 1959, bound for Nadi, Honolulu and San Francisco. The flight reached San Francisco in a record time of 14 hours 57 minutes.
* Qantas was the first airline in the world to operate commercial passenger jet services across the Pacific and the first non-US airline to operate Boeing jet aircraft.
* Qantas achieved another first on 27 October 1959 by introducing the B707 jet on the Kangaroo Route between Australia and London, slashing the journey time to 33 hours, compared to 63 hours in the Connies. Today, operated by new A380 aircraft, the journey takes approximately 23 hours.
* The Qantas Boeing 707 was configured with 24 seats in First Class and 60 in Tourist Class.
* To prepare for the B707, Qantas spent millions of dollars constructing new hangars, an engine overhaul shop, a jet test cell, new equipment and parts and training for pilots and cabin crew, maintenance engineers and ground staff.
Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (3938)