A Qantas passenger aircraft retired from commercial service this weekend to begin life as a Rolls-Royce flying testbed.

The firm say that the aircraft will be used to test current and future jet engine technology that will transform flight, reduce emissions and set new benchmarks for efficiency.

“The Boeing 747-400 – with the registration of VH-OJU – has been in service with Qantas for 20 years as a much-loved member of the Australian national carrier’s fleet. Over the course of its life, OJU has flown more than 70 million kilometres, which is the equivalent of almost 100 return trips to the moon. It has operated to dozens of countries and carried 2.5 million passengers, with each journey powered by four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines.

As a flying testbed, it will be fitted with the latest testing capabilities and for the first time, will test engines which power both commercial and business aircraft. New systems will obtain better data faster than ever before, and technologies will be tested at higher altitudes and faster speeds. Flying testbeds are used to conduct altitude testing and monitor technologies in flight conditions.”

When complete, the aircraft will work alongside Rolls-Royce’s existing flying testbed, a Boeing 747-200, which has completed 285 test flights to date.

Gareth Hedicker, Rolls-Royce, Director of Development and Experimental Engineering, said:

“The Queen of the skies will become the jewel in the crown of our global test programmes. This is a significant investment that will expand our world-leading test capabilities even further and will allow us to obtain more flight test data than ever before. After transporting millions of passengers on this beloved aircraft for 20 years, we’re excited to power it into the future.”

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This is a bit along the lines of my previous post about using retired Jumbos as flying “missile warehouses” for air defence or long-rage attack capability, but staying out of range of anything nasty.


You’ve been reading far to many Dale Brown books.


Is it? Did you read the article?

Its an engine testbed like RR have used for donkeys.

The guided missile arsenal thing you are referring to is an old USAF concept from the 60s/70s and quite different

Levi Goldsteinberg

In that instance it wasn’t missiles, but several mini-fighter jets launched from an internal bay inside a 747 hull


Good youtube video on that https://youtu.be/drnxZlS9gyw


Don’t see the comparison between the two articles myself totally different subjects




I was only pointing out the concept of using retired airlines for useful stuff.

Crikey peeps! Chill.

Daniele Mandelli

I got what you meant Albert….


Thank you!

Levi Goldsteinberg

Should be plastered in a big Union Jack somewhere on that, given the absence of knowledge the average Brit has for their country’s manufacturing prowess, it should be advertised better


Yes good idea.


Do you not think, the iconic (10 metres high) overlapping RR on the tail, impacts greatly, as flying the flag for the UK?


RR tried that before but it presented an image of old minded insular “little Britainers “ and was going to harm sales. In fact exactly the same reason as to why British Airways became BA


In addition there is the fundamental fact that despite what insular little britainers think. Sadly the British flag is not a welcome site for many of RR’s customers in particular in the MEA&O


Indeed its why so many of our companies play down their ‘Britishness’ these days Bae being the other obvious one. They like to be thought of as Multi Nationals these days though I agree with the sentiment above about making Brits more aware of their engineering prowess. It frustrates me that despite most of the F1 teams are relying substantially on British technology and expertise these days we only hear the anthem when Hamilton wins. Particular gripe that when Red Bull win we hear the damn Austrian anthem despite none of the actual technology actually being Austrian. Ineos, Jaguar and… Read more »


Agreed, although it was interesting to see that “playing down Britishness” can when convenient be deliberately unwound by others for political reasons. The one that sticks in my mind was in 2010 after the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill where many in the US, up to and including Obama, seemed to have an agenda to place the entire blame on BP despite other companies (e.g. Haliburton) sharing some of the responsibility. Even though British Petroleum (Company Limited) had re branded itself simply “BP” in 2000, which in fact the then chairman Sir John Browne said at the time… Read more »


Yes, funny how many Americans think that RR is an American company. I remember being involved with construction of a GOSP in a Saudi offshore oilfield. I was contracted to an American offshore construction firm…and as a huge gas-turbine generation plant was lifted on to the platform, the large silver plat with the RR logo glinted in the sunlight. An American turned to me and said “Jesus that makes me so Goddam proud”. I replied “yes old chap, me too”.

Bloke down the pub

The 747 has an extra hard point under the port wing, designed to transport spare engines when needed and utilised by Virgin Galactic as an orbital rocket launcher. It’s odd that RR decided against using it and according to the graphic, will use a stub wing added to the upper deck.

James Fennell

Looks like that stub wing is for smaller bizjet engines, maybe the hardpoint is not suitable for lil ‘uns?

The Big Man

The hard point is for ferrying and not for powered use. The ferry engine has fairings added and the fans removed to reduce drag as well as the aircraft running with a reduced fuel load due to the six tonnes weight of the engine. The hard point has to be specified with the aircraft order, it is not standard fit. Additionally, this ability was only created because the 747 was the largest plane at the time with the largest engines. If one failed there were no freighters big enough to carry a spare to the disabled plane. This was important… Read more »

The Big Man

As a foot note. This aircraft was specified with the additional hard point when purchased by Quantas.


Interesting I wondered how Virgin managed that without a complete re design .


For accuracy it is a RR owned and was paid for by RR 747 it is not being given freely by quantas as the headline might imply. Also the article seems to think this is a new radical idea, yet a tiny bit of journalism would have discovered that RR have been doing the same thing with airframes for decades. But there again actually journalism among with unbiased has definitely gone out of UKDJ these days.

Andrew r

Did you even read the article? It mentions that they already use a 747-200.

Good to know people don’t properly read articles any more.

James Harrington

Andrew, no need to read anymore, you can “skim” and apparently absorb it all….. and become an expert in a few minutes. Then you can share it on a vlog, so you don’t even have to be able to write “proper” English now days. You and I have unreasonable expectations of modern life.


Hey its a quiet day, surely better to have something to report and read than nothing but tumbleweed rolling through the site. After all if it is of no interest to you why read it when its obvious what its about and even more, why comment about how disinterested you are in the subject matter. Quiet day for you too?

Ian M

As an occasional reader of these articles, is it too much to ask of other contributors that things remain civil? Too often on these threads the conversation turns to backbiting and sarcasm, completely ignoring the point of the discussion. I’ll be visiting less often.