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This Qantas 747 skipped retirement for a cool new career testing jet engines

After flying with Australia’s flag carrier for 20 years, the jumbo jet will live again with Rolls-Royce's aerospace division.

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The 747 will test engines on underwing pylons or on a short wing attached to the fuselage. 

Rolls Royce

Like other airlines that operate the Boeing 747-400, Qantas is slowly retiring the Queen of the Skies from its fleet in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient airliners. But not all of the Kangaroo-clad jumbo jets are spending their retirement in the California desert waiting to be scrapped.

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A Qantas 747-400 lands at Sydney in January, 2019.

Kent German/CNET

Last week after it carried its last load of passengers from Sydney to Los Angeles, a 747 named Lord Howe Island flew to Moses Lake, Washington, where it will start a fresh career testing new jet engine technology for Rolls-Royce. With a new paint job and an interior packed with monitoring equipment, the aircraft will carry the engines under development either on underwing pylons or on a small wing attached to the side of the fuselage. 

It will look a little peculiar, no doubt, but in a statement, Gareth Hedicker, Rolls-Royce's director of development and experimental engineering, said the aircraft will be doing important work in the company's $70 million test program. "This is a significant investment that will expand our world-leading test capabilities even further and will allow us to obtain more flight test data than ever before."

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Lord Howe Island is finishing a 20-year career with Qantas after flying more than 70 million kilometers, or about 43.5 million miles. Qantas says it will replace its remaining 747-400s by end of 2020 with Boeing 787s.