The Illawarra Mercury reporting team is bringing you a weekly series of behind-the-scenes stories, exclusive to our subscribers. Today, Robert Peet reveals how the photography team captured Wednesday's magnificent farewell to the Qantas 747.
This week saw the last 747 flight in Australia. The Qantas jet took off from Sydney to much fanfare, before flying over the first 747 ship that resides at the HARS complex at Shellharbour Airport en route to the United States.
Thousands of people gathered at various vantage points to witness this once-in-a-lifetime moment, the last lady of the air, bidding farewell to her older sister, now retired at Albion Park Rail.
With just moments to capture this historic event, we put everything behind planning it. We had three photographers covering various angles, with Adam McLean shooting the approach and overall scene from Mount Kembla.
An elevation of over 500 metres at Mount Kembla Lookout provided a near-eye-level view of the jet during its approach and wing wobble over the airport.
Distance was the issue here and it required the use of the specialist equipment we usually use for sport photography. These long lenses, including a 400mm telephoto with a 1.4X converter and 600mm telephoto, meant that very clear images could still be captured from kilometres away.
Sylvia Liber and I were based at the airport. The HARS Aviation Museum team had a variety of planes on the tarmac. Both current and retired Qantas staff took part in the formalities and, with a few hundred spectators allowed at the event, it needed two photographers to capture all the goings on properly.
With so much happening over such a large area it was ironic that a quick flight proved to be the most effective way to capture an airport based event. Getting to go up in any helicopter is a buzz, but when it's a privately owned and restored vintage helicopter with no door on the passenger side, believe me the thrill is multiplied exponentially!
Whilst in the air, Sylvia captured the colour on the ground. There were stylish Qantas flight attendants and pilots as well as the dedicated HARS volunteers and excited members of the public.
Back on the ground I made it back to the car park of the HARS facility, which I'd scoped days before, hoping to capture the final flight making its way past its retired older sister.
The noise and commotion on the tarmac became an eerie silence moments before the roar of the approaching 747's engines brought the crowd gathered to a climax of cheers and applause.
The plane overhead, I rattled off the first frame at 4:01:20 PM and the last at 4:01:25. It was over in seconds, by which time I'd captured over 30 images of the flyby.
The crowd noise subsided as the engine noise faded, the Qantas 747 had bid us its final farewell. Sylvia, Adam and I photographed the arrival of the resident 747 to the Illawarra many years ago. It was special being able to cover this final chapter in the 747's Australian aviation history.
You can see more photos from the historic day here. Thank you for your support. If you enjoyed this, feel free to forward it to a friend.