A team from Qantas restoring a Boeing 707-100 prototype it plans to exhibit at its Outback aviation museum performed its first full power engine last week, paving the way for an expected historic delivery flight scheduled to arrive in Sydney in December.
The short-bodied 707 prototype (VH-XBA) is being restored to airworthiness in Southend airport, UK. The aircraft did the first full power runs of its Pratt & Whitney JT3D engines 16 November in full retro Qantas colour scheme. It is expected to make several test flights and depart in early December for Australia.
The aircraft was originally designed and built for Qantas and is the first of only five that were converted into short bodied variants. Currently only one remains airworthy, movie star John Travolta's model (N707JT), which is painted in the Qantas V-Jet livery. The two aircraft will meet up for a special ceremony at Boeing Field in Seattle for a special roll out ceremony next month and fly in formation for the first part of the flight from the USA.
In July 2006 the Qantas Foundation Memorial (QFM) bought the aircraft following the initial inspection by Boeing Australia in December 2005 and set about restoring it to flying condition to fly it back to Australia for the Qantas Founders Outback museum. The aviation museum is situated in Longreach, in far western Queensland, the original hub for the then Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service (QANTAS).
The work has been carried out by a team of 10 retired Qantas engineers and two current Qantas employees on a voluntary basis. Four engineers from Boeing Australia are working on the aero engines.
In October it was painted by Southend-based paintshop Air Livery in the historic original Qantas Australia’s Overseas Airline colours and titles as when it was originally delivered from the factory at Boeing in July 1959.
The Boeing 707 prototype acquired by Qantas Foundation Memorial performed its first high powered engine runs in Southend, UK last week
The aircraft is scheduled to depart Southend airport late thi smonth or early next month bound for Dublin before flying in several hops to the USA via Canada then retracing its original delivery route from Honolulu and Nadi, Fiji to Sydney where a big reception is planned in December.
An operating crew consisting of a Qantas captain and two first officers, all type rated on the Boeing 707, are standing on the sidelines to fly the aircraft to Australia, all Royal Australian Air Force reserve pilots.
The restoration has been made possible by a A$1 million ($770,000) grant from the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage with assistance from Boeing Australia, the QFM 707 team and a lot of other volunteers including Boeing Australia, ATC Lasham and London Southend Airport..
Ian Campbell, Australian hertiage minister says: "This aircraft is a significant part of our national identity. Its arrival in Sydney on 20 July 1959 changed the way Australians thought about their relationship to the world. The jet symbolises that monumental change in thinking because for the first time everyone had an affordable and fast way to travel overseas by air. The 707s reduced the Sydney-London trip from 48h to 27h, and crossing time for the Pacific from 28h to 16h."
When it arrives in Australia it will do a short tour of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane before landing at Longreach for a special ceremony.