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.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German

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.


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. 

A 747 story: The history of the jumbo jet

See all photos

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."

Watch this: Watch a Boeing 787 showcase incredible acrobatic stunts

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.