Plane buffs, frequent flyers and Qantas staff are flocking to farewell the airline's last Boeing 747 in special flights before the plane joins a growing number of Jumbos parked up or being scrapped.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the demise of the Jumbo, which transformed global travel for more than half a century and was dubbed the "Queen of the Skies".
Qantas will operate the one-hour flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra next week before the aircraft flies to the Mojave boneyard in the United States where four others from the airline's fleet have arrived during the past three months.
Around the world, airlines have grounded the remaining 747 passenger planes, many of them for good, as demand for long-haul travel collapsed because of border restrictions, dealing what is shaping up to be a terminal blow to the relatively fuel-hungry four-engine planes.
More than 90 per cent of the 747 passenger fleet was estimated to be grounded in May.
Forecasts suggest air travel will not return to pre-Covid levels for three years, and most airlines are now surviving because of state support.
Since it entered commercial service in 1970, there have been 1571 orders for the Jumbo. Early models weighed in at 330 tonnes and the planes have since grown to 440 tonnes.
Even while 747s are being laid up, Boeing says production of its latest model of the aircraft will continue for two years.
A spokesman told the Herald that at a build rate of half a plane a month, the 747-8 freighter programme has more than two years of production ahead of it in order to fulfil current customer commitments.
"We will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production line healthy and meet customer needs."
However, beyond that, its future looks limited, apart from building the next US presidential plane, Air Force One (actually, two aircraft), due for delivery in 2024.
The strategy would have been successful had the 747-8 not been bedevilled by early mismanagement, blowing its budget and deadlines, Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Teal Group, told Bloomberg.
The company has lost about $US40 million ($61m) for each 747 since 2016, when it slowed production to its current six aircraft a year, Jefferies aerospace and defence analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu said.
Boeing has recorded $4.2 billion in accounting charges for the 747-8.
In financial filings earlier this year, gone was any indication that the company would continue to "evaluate the viability" of the programme, standard phrasing it had previously used, Bloomberg reported.
The Jumbo's future will be as a freighter for many years. It has done the heavy lifting during the pandemic, with about 280 freighters carrying cargo around the world.
The 747 first joined Qantas' fleet in September 1971, and they became the pinnacle of luxury travel.
Decades before bars were introduced in Airbus A380 superjumbos, Qantas had the Captain Cook lounge.
The airline's shagadelic upstairs space had seating for 15 passengers, a stand-up bar and decor the airline now admits "should have come with a volume control".
There were images of James Cook, a sextant, a ship's wheel, lanterns and rope used to give the impression passengers were seated inside a replica sailing ship rather than a brand-new wide-body jet.
American Airlines turned its upstairs lounge into a "piano bar", complete with a Wurlitzer organ and an entertainer who led singalongs with the passengers.
Swanky lounges were replaced with seats when the price of fuel went up during the 1970s.
In 1974, Qantas set a world record for the day when it carried the most passengers - 673 people evacuated on a 747 flight from Darwin after the city was devastated by Cyclone Tracy.
The airline has operated 65 jumbos and the oldest of its fleet was retired to the Mojave Desert in California early in August 2017. The aircraft, VH-OJM, was delivered new to Qantas in 1991 and carried more than four million people around the world.
The airline said its "farewell jumbo joy flights" were in response to requests from employees and customers for one final chance to fly on the aircraft.
Qantas 747 fleet captain Owen Weaver said the 747 had a special place in the hearts of many Australians.
"The 747 has been a magnificent aircraft and it's fitting that we celebrate the end of five decades of history-making moments for the national carrier and aviation in Australia," he said.
Business class tickets sold for $A747 ($791) and economy seats $400.
Seats will be limited to maximise passenger comfort, the flights will be operated on a cost-recovery basis and profits will be donated to the HARS Aviation Museum at Albion Park (Wollongong) and the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach. Both museums have a Qantas 747 on public display.
Air New Zealand's first 747 arrived in 1981 and was seen as turning point for the airline in its recovery from the Erebus disaster two years earlier. The last of its Jumbos was retired in 2014 with its final passenger flight from Auckland to San Francisco.
The planes are praised as tough and dependable by pilots who sit 10m above the tarmac when the planes are parked.
Built by The Incredibles
Early in the 1960s, spurred by losing a contract for the US military's next giant transport aircraft, Boeing turned to its civil division to revive its fortunes.
Encouraged by a growing appetite for long-haul travel and sealed with a commitment by Pan Am to buy 25 planes, Boeing executives bet their future on what was to become the most recognised plane in the world.
They committed more than the value of the company to developing the 747 and a factory big enough to build it in.
Work on clearing wooded hill country at Everett, north of Seattle, began in 1966 and just two years later the first prototype was wheeled out of what was the biggest building in the world.
Tens of thousands of construction workers, mechanics, engineers, secretaries and administrators who made aviation history were known as "The Incredibles".
Pan Am made the first commercial flight between New York and London in January 1970 and began a revolution in air travel.
The plane could fly more people further and at a lower seat cost, which translated to lower fares and a golden age in long-haul travel, but the Jumbo has since been superseded by twin-engine planes, including Boeing's 777, which are cheaper to operate and maintain.
While the 747's days as a passenger carrier are numbered, it is a roaring success compared to the Airbus A380, whose building programme is drawing to a halt after attracting 251 firm orders.
Nearly all are parked up and unlikely to return to service for several years, and some never at all.