The first Qantas A380 superjumbo returned to Australia after almost 600 days of storage in California's Mojave desert.
The plane touched down in Sydney 3.11pm local time after an epic 18 hour, 58 minute, 16,000 kilometre non-stop flight from Dresden, Germany, where the giant aircraft underwent maintenance and had new landing gear installed.
For everyone following along, our friends at EFW captured VH-OQB's take off from Dresden 😍 pic.twitter.com/80Uen2XKv6— Qantas (@Qantas) November 8, 2021
Qantas has brought forward the return of its A380s fleet several times since the relaxation of borders were announced. Chief executive Alan Joyce previously predicted the aircraft would not fly again for the airline until 2023.
Strong demand for flights to the US and UK have seen the airline bring forward the return of the A380s to service to April 2022, when two superjumbos will resume Sydney-Los Angeles flights.
Three more will re-enter service on the London route from July 2022. This was previously not expected to happen until November next year.
"That shows the confidence we have in getting our flagship aircraft back in the air," Mr Joyce said last week.
The first A380 to arrive is named Hudson Fysh, after one of Qantas' founders. The early return to service of the world's largest passenger jet offers a new lease on life for the superjumbos, which have fallen out of favour with airlines in recent years as smaller and more efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 became more popular options.
The Qantas A380's 16,000 kilometre flight route from Dresden. Photo: Flightradar24.com
Qantas chief pilot Captain Richard Tobiano said the return of the A380 was symbolic of how quickly demand for international travel had bounced back.
"This aircraft will play a key role in preparing our crew to return to A380 flying operations in the new year," he said.
"Many of our crew have found other jobs during the pandemic doing everything from working in vaccination hubs and hospital wards to driving buses and tractors, and painting houses.
"Over the next few months, pilots will undergo an extensive retraining period including simulator sessions, training flights and classroom courses to prepare for take-off."
Qantas engineers in California faced some unusual challenges maintaining the airline's planes in the Mojave desert, including having to check landing gear for rattlesnakes and scorpions while carrying out inspections.
Qantas A380s in storage at Victorville, Mojave desert.
Several airlines brought forward the retirement of their superjumbos due to the downturn in air travel caused by the pandemic, with speculation Qantas' A380s might never return. While two of the airlines giant planes will be retired, six will return to service in 2022 and a further four the following year.
Several other airlines have recently returned A380s to service, including British Airways and Qatar Airways. Singapore Airlines will bring its A380s back into service on the Sydney-Singapore route from Wednesday, December 1.