The 41-year-old 747 has been sitting in the desert but come July 1 its white fuselage will serve a new purpose: movie screen.
The 747’s 635 square meters will be a canvas displaying whales underwater, a World War I battle, and the history of Qantas, including former liveries like its iconic Aboriginal-themed “Wunala Dreaming.”
The movie projections are the newest feature for this 747-200 that is already a display showpiece, offers interior tours and allows visitors to walk on the wing of the jumbo jet.
This might be the busiest 747 that doesn’t fly. It’s in Australia at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, Queensland, which also has a 707, DC-3, and Lockheed Super Constellation, all in historical Qantas liveries.
It took 11,000 hours to plan the new “Luminescent Longreach” movie display and another 2,000 to implement from architecture and design group Buchan.
“There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world,” said Qantas Founders Museum CEO Tony Martin, seen below with “Wunala Dreaming” projected on the 747.
To display the former Wunala livery, the museum and Buchan enlisted Balarinji, the Sydney-based Aboriginal studio that created the original artwork for Qantas as part of its Flying Art Series.
Wunala, which flew on a 747-400 from 2003-2011, depicts spirit ancestors in the form of kangaroos (Wunala) tracking between camps and waterholes. Balarinji created all of Qantas’ flying art, including the recent “Yam Dreaming” on a 787.
The movie shows an interior cutaway of the 747’s passenger cabins, cockpit and below-deck baggage hold and avionics bay.
It mostly focuses on the founding of Qantas and Australia’s intertwined aviation history.
Chronicled are flying boats in eastern Sydney’s Rose Bay and the gold-striped “Flying Kangaroo” livery (below). It was used from 1971 to 1984 but gave Qantas the endearing Flying Kangaroo nickname.
The exhibition coincides with milestones at the museum and Qantas. The museum’s airpark roof covering is complete, giving shelter to the aircraft and shading visitors from the outback sunlight. Qantas meanwhile is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Leader designer Anthony Rawson, a senior associate at Buchan, has also worked on the Vivid Sydney light festival. He noted the 747 project is “in the airline’s centenary year when so much of Qantas’ rich history is being re-told to new generations.”
Initial celebrations were dampened by Covid-19, but with Australia taking early and swift containment measures, the show now goes on. Precautions are still in place with evening viewing of the 747 capped at 80 people via tickets pre-booked online.
The 6:30 p.m. show is A$20 (US$13.82), and the museum hopes that the nighttime viewing will give visitors a reason to spend the night, boosting local tourism. The movie is not strictly flying-themed and also takes audiences underwater.
Museum Deputy Chair Graeme Wills said the museum needs “to cater to changing and growing tourism markets while also ensuring the preservation of the Qantas story and the museum’s precious aircraft.”
More economic benefit will help the Australian government recoup the A$11.3 million (US$7.8m) it spent for Airpark roof while the Queensland government contributed A$3m (US$2m) for the movie projection. The museum is not-for-profit.
Updated on June 24 with further information.
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