Qantas – 90th Birthday

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Jenny Pursehouse and her young family represented Wauchope Travelworld at the Qantas 90th Birthday Celebrations in Sydney. Chrissy Jones catches up with Jenny, to get a first hand Account of the event …

Qantas celebrated their 90th birthday in star-studded style, with John Travolta in attendance at Mascot Airport in Sydney recently. Jenny, tell us about the day.

It all started with a downpour of rain, but seemingly on cue the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun shone as the Qantas Goodwill Ambassador John Travolta flew in from Florida. He pulled up in his Qantas- branded, Boeing 707 aircraft right in front of the crowd, opened up the cockpit window and waved as if we were all a part of his long-lost family gathering assembled to greet him.

What was the Open Day about?

It has been 90 years in November since the papers were signed in Queensland to establish what has become Australia’s National Carrier, Qantas. In celebration of this event, Qantas have held Open Days in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne as a way of saying thank-you to their staff and associates. Travelworld Wauchope was privileged to have been given an invitation to this exclusive event in Sydney and myself, husband Rick and son Max joined in the festivities. It was fantastic!

Around 16,000 people attended the Qantas Jet Base, Mascot, as Qantas opened the doors on its operation, allowing the opportunity to see behind the scenes. The Open Day featured static aircraft displays and tours of aircraft such as the Historical Airliner – The Constellation, better known as ‘Connie’, with its triple-tail design and dolphin shaped fuselage. The temporarily grounded Airbus A380 was also on display and open for viewing.

Qantas had just grounded their A380 fleet following an engine explosion on a flight from Singapore to Sydney. Did you find out any inside info on the situation?

As we waited in line to inspect the A380, I caught up with one of Qantas’ Senior Quality Surveyors, who has worked for Qantas for over 22 years. He was due to fly to Toulouse, France the next day to check and approve the delivery of another new A380. He assured me that Qantas and Rolls Royce (who make the engines for many of the A380s) were working to correct the problem with the troublesome engine and hoped that the A380 fleet would be back in service quickly. With over a 2-hour wait to see inside the A380, he indicated that interest in this double-decker aircraft of the future is still strong.

What were some of the displays and entertainment?

The Qantas Founders Museum based in Longreach and the Royal Flying Doctor Service also had displays. Donations from the sale of Qantas Caps and food and drink on the day were all going to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service. There were musical performances, appearances by sporting stars and ongoing entertainment, such as a dancing Chinese dragon, stilt walkers and roaming musicians. The face painting for kids was very popular. They were given a choice of Australian wildlife, such as koalas, crocodiles and sharks.

Tell us about your John Travolta experience!

The visit by John Travolta was definitely the highlight of the day. Word had quickly spread that he was landing in Sydney and would be holding a press conference in the hangar of the A380. The press were swarming and TV presenters arrived, waiting for their chance to interview the highly successful movie and television star. With hits such as Welcome Back Cotter, Grease and Pulp Fiction, just to name a few, he has sustained a long career in the entertainment industry.

As we waited patiently for his arrival, I overheard a lady behind me saying that he had previously visited their school some time ago, and she was very impressed with his warm and genuine personality. As his Boeing 707 taxied to a halt right in front of the crowd, there was a deafening cheer from the onlookers.

This continued as he walked down the steps of his plane at Mascot and was whisked away to undergo immigration and custom procedures. He had just arrived into Australia after re-fuelling his Aircraft in Fiji en-route from his home in Florida.

What was his press conference like?

About half an hour later at his press conference, he talked about his passion for flying and his passion for Qantas. Since the age of 5 he has been interested in aircraft and flying. According to John, his fascination with Qantas was due to their “tradition of integrity, of technical advantages, of service, of safety.” Although, he stated that one of the original reasons for his interest in Qantas was their ability to fly the longest over-water flight.

It was interesting to hear him tell us what attracts him to Australia. He said, “The countryside when I was flying in, but it’s the people that I love. The Australian people just get me right here (as he puts his hand to his heart). It all started with Olivia Newton John back 30 years ago.”

He talked about his passion for both family and flying …

He flew into Sydney for the 90th anniversary celebrations on his own aircraft, ‘Jett Clipper Ella’, named after his children. He told us that he underwent specialised training with Qantas before being given permission to fly this Qantas branded aircraft. He said it took a month of solid training before passing Qantas’ stringent requirements to pilot this plane. He has since flown it around the world 5 times.

He told us that his wife Kelly Preston is due with their baby boy (to be named Benjamin) in just on 20 days’ time, and he said to the crowd, “If she goes into labour, I’ll have to turn around and get back on a 22 hour flight home.” He also added that it’s just as well the runway on his property runs right up to his front door!

You witnessed the cutting of the cake!

Following his press conference, John Travolta met with the crowd and answered questions, then assisted Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to cut the 90th anniversary cake. With only 10 years to go before Qantas celebrate their centenary, CEO Alan Joyce encouraged his staff to “Keep up the fantastic work that will ensure we continue to represent the Spirit of Australia, and we keep flying high in Australia and right around the world”.

Thank you Jenny.

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