The Mighty 747 by Jim Eames

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

 Australians have always been inveterate travellers. Business, the needs of Government, leisure and those who have felt the need to get away to prove themselves have all contributed to the great exodus that has left our shores. The majority of course have returned while some have remained away having settled in new places. In return, the world has come to our shores for similar reasons. While Covid has interrupted this ebb and flow of humanity, the easing of restrictions has allowed for the movement of world trippers to begin again.

Many would have travelled by plane since it is, despite the trials and tribulations modern air travel is facing at the moment, the fastest way to get from place to place. Quite a number would have chosen Qantas as their preferred airline and so would have jumped aboard the subject of Jim Eames’ latest book The Mighty 747 Australia’s Queen of the Skies to make their journeys to and from their destinations.

Eames delves deep into the history of how the Boeing 747 came to be the most prolific of Qantas’ international fleet. Wherever you went in the world and Qantas flew into the airport you were visiting, the plane of choice to make the journey would have a 747. It is worth noting, as Eames does, the risks both Boeing and Qantas took in bringing this behemoth of the skies into being and shaping it into the popular aircraft it would become.

At the time of its conception, the travelling public going by air overseas was very small compared to what it is today. To design and build an aircraft that could carry up to 500 passengers and crew was thought in the 1960s to be the height of expense and madness. Boeing and Qantas persisted and eventually brought other airlines to the party once the advantages of the 747 were proven.

It’s not just the aircraft itself that Eames brings to the story. He also talks about the people from those whose vision kept the project to build and sell it alive to those who crewed the plane and fell in love with it as the years went by. Little did anyone know that almost 50 years would pass before the last Qantas 747 services would fly with the final departure in 2020. Eames provides a great tribute to a wonderful aircraft that conjures memories of past travels in the minds of the readers.

Even though most of the Qantas 747 fleet have long left Australian shores we can still see and explore the Queen of the Skies by visiting the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach and the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Shellharbour Airport in New South Wales where two examples the aircraft are lovingly preserved.

The 747 served Australia well during its reign in our skies. As well as meeting Qantas’ needs to transport its passengers to different parts of the globe, it has also taken Australian Defence Force personnel to various theatres of war and transported refugees from places such as Vietnam and Afghanistan to Australia. The 747 was also there to play its part in bringing the people of Darwin to the southern states after the city was ravaged by Cyclone Tracey in 1974.

Those who have an interest in aviation as well as those who have fond memories of travelling on a 747 will enjoy this homage to an aircraft that ruled our skies for almost fifty years and cemented in many the desire to travel and explore the world.

Jim Eames has been involved with airlines since he began work as an aviation writer in the 1960s. He has been a ministerial press secretary to governments and a senior executive with Qantas. He is the author of nine books including Taking to the Skies: Daredevils, heroes and hijackers, Australia’s flying stories from the Catalina to the Jumbo and The Flying Kangaroo: Great Untold Stories of Qantas.

The Mighty 747

by Jim Eames


Allen & Unwin

ISBN 978 176087 711 8

$32.99; 272pp

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