A newly reconfigured Qantas Boeing 737-800 painted in vintage 1960s livery has been unveiled in Sydney as the national carrier celebrates 95 years of flying.
Retro Roo II (VH-VXQ) has the same livery that featured on Qantas' Boeing 707 jets from 1959 to 1961 – when the flying kangaroo helped revolutionise long-haul travel.
The B707 represented a step-change in aviation and Qantas was the first carrier outside the United States to operate the jet. In 1959, Qantas used it to become the first airline to operate regular passenger jet services across the Pacific Ocean, connecting Sydney and San Francisco.
Qantas was also the first airline to offer a round-the-world jet service with the B707. The flying time was 70 hours compared to 127 hours with the Super Constellation aircraft that the B707 replaced. Today a Qantas flight from Sydney to London stops just once, in Dubai, and takes 21 flying hours.
Welcoming the freshly-painted jet into a hangar with more than 300 employees, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce described the vintage livery as a flying tribute to the airline's history of innovation.
“None of the past 95 years would have been possible without all those who have worked for Qantas with such commitment and passion. Tens of thousands of people have dedicated their whole careers to the national carrier and many who work here today are the third or fourth generation in their family to do so,” he added.
“As we celebrate our 95th birthday today, I hope this livery inspires a sense of pride in what our national airline has achieved during all those years of taking Australians around the world and bringing them safely home again,” said Mr Joyce.
“A large part of the national pride people feel towards the flying kangaroo comes from the fact it has been responsible for so many innovations in global aviation.
“We were the first airline to introduce business class, we have operated record breaking endurance flights throughout our history and we've helped pioneer many breakthroughs in aviation technology.
“Innovation is still at the core of Qantas and we're now looking to a new generation of aircraft with the arrival of Qantas' first B787 Dreamliners in 2017. Like the 707 in 1959, these aircraft are at the cutting edge of aviation and we're really excited about the opportunities they'll open up for our customers.
The arrival of Retro Roo II, which was painted in Townsville, is part of Qantas' 95th birthday celebrations. Events so far have included an Australia-wide Instameet and Qantas' charity flight to Longreach, which raised over $110,000 for drought relief. A gala dinner for over 1,000 people in the airline's A380 hangar in Mascot on Friday rounds out the activities.
Retro Roo II is the second Qantas 737 aircraft in vintage livery. Retro Roo I was launched last November, featuring the livery of 1971-1984, and regularly appears on social media as passengers photograph it at airports across the country.
Earlier this year, Qantas donated its record-breaking B747-400 (VH-OJA) to an aviation museum staffed largely by former Qantas employees. The aircraft was significant for operating the world's longest non-stop flight from London to Sydney in 1989, and is now a big tourism draw for the Illawarra region.
Vision of Qantas' inaugural Boeing 707 service from Sydney to San Francisco in 1959 can be viewed on Qantas YouTube