Qantas’ first A380 returns to Australia after nearly 600 days in storage

Superjumbo flew 19 hours from Germany after spending almost two years in the Californian desert

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The world’s largest passenger aircraft has returned to Australia after an absence of nearly 20 months.

Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport welcomed Qantas A380 flight number QF6023 at just after 3pm on Tuesday. The mammoth jet is the first double-decker aircraft to return to Australia for Qantas since the onset of the global pandemic.

The huge superjumbo has spent the best part of two years in storage in the Californian desert, alongside the rest of Qantas' double-decker jets which were parked owing to a lack of travel demand because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The jet departed Dresden in Germany after undergoing thousands of hours of maintenance, including having new landing gear installed.

Named Hudson Fysh, after one of Qantas’ founders, the 483-seat A380 aircraft had been expected to remain in the desert until the end of 2023.

Its early return comes after Qantas announced plans to bring five of its superjumbos back into service as Australia reopened its borders on November 1.

The aircraft, which is the only Qantas superjumbo with a first-class cabin, will now operate on flights to Los Angeles from April 2022 and to London from July 2022.

Qantas' chief pilot and A380 captain Richard Tobiano said it was a terrific day, not only for Qantas crew, but also for passengers who love flying on the national carrier’s flagship aircraft.

“The A380 is a fantastic aircraft and we are very excited to welcome it home today. The early return is symbolic of how quickly demand for international travel has bounced back and this aircraft will play a key role in preparing our crew to return to A380 flying operations in the new year.”

Qantas crew onboard the first A380 to return to Australia since the onset of the global pandemic

Piloting the 19-hour flight from Germany to Sydney were captain Paul Grant, first officer Barry Doe, first officer David Thiess and second officer Fiona Diamond.

“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,” said Tobiano.

While it was in storage, Hudson Fysh and its A380 siblings were carefully maintained by Qantas engineers who carried out regular inspections on the aircraft. The jet flew to Dresden earlier this year for maintenance work and is returning with an upgraded cabin, as previously announced by Qantas.

Qantas has now said that a sixth A380 will also be coming home early before the end of 2022, with the airline's remaining four superjumbos expected to be back in the air by 2024.

The airline has seen demand for travel pick up massively since restrictions in Australia eased. It took close to half a million domestic bookings in the past two weeks, compared with about 20,000 bookings in a two-week period in August.

Qantas was the first major international airlineto mandate that travellers, as well as crew, must be immunised to fly on its jets.

Updated: November 09, 2021, 8:01 AM