Captain on record-breaking Qantas 747-400 delivery flight, David Massy-Greene, dies aged 73

David Massy-Greene, the captain of Qantas’s record-breaking Boeing 747-400 nonstop flight from London Heathrow to Sydney, died on Sunday, August 21. He was 73.

Qantas confirmed the news in a recent note to its 30,000 employees.

“It is with sadness that we let you know of the passing of former Qantas Captain David Massy-Greene,” Qantas said.

A supplied image of former Qantas captain David Massy-Greene. (Qantas)
Former Qantas captain David Massy-Greene. (Qantas)

Massy-Greene began his career at Qantas as a cadet in 1966 and flew Boeing 707s, 767s and 747s until his retirement from the airline in 1999.

Massy-Greene, alongside captains Ray Heiniger, George Lindeman and Rob Greenop, was at the controls of the delivery flight of Qantas’s first Boeing 747-400, VH-OJA City of Canberra, in August 1989, when the aircraft flew nonstop for 20 hours, nine minutes and five seconds, covering 9,720nm.

The flight crew of Qantas's record-breaking Boeing 747-400 VH-OJA delivery flight. (Qantas)
The flightcrew of Qantas’s record-breaking 747-400 delivery flight, captains George Lindeman, David Massy-Greene, Ray Heiniger and Rob Greenop. (Qantas)

The record for world’s longest nonstop flight by distance stood until Boeing set a new mark with a 777-200LR that flew 11,664nm, heading eastwards from Hong Kong to London flying over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and North America in 22 hours and 42 minutes, in November 2005.

Massy-Greene was among the thousands on hand to witness the final flight of VH-OJA in March 2015, when Qantas retired the aircraft and donated it to the Historical Aviation Restoration Society at Illawarra Airport.

A smiling Massy-Greene said having the 747-400 at Illawarra Airport was a fitting tribute for the aircraft given its place in Australian aviation history.

He expressed relief the initial retirement plan for the aircraft – it was understood Qantas was originally going to send VH-OJA to the desert to place it in storage or have it parted out – did not eventuate.

“The last I heard before they finally announced that it was coming here was it was going to the Mojave, which is the boneyard where they break them up,” Massy-Greene said after VH-OJA’s arrival at Illawarra Airport.

“My great thanks to Qantas for their generosity and my congratulations and thanks to HARS for accepting it as a permanent record of Australian aviation.

“I think it is absolutely wonderful.”

Michael East, Ossie Miller, David Massey-Greene, Rob Greenop, Ray Heiniger, Greg Matthews and Peter Hagley at Illawarra Airport after VH-OJA’s delivery flight. (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas noted Massy-Greene’s contribution to aviation did not end after he left the airline.

“He retired from Qantas in 1999 and joined Boeing where he spent the next 12 years and worked on the development of the electronic flight bag which is now standard equipment on most airline fleets,” Qantas said.

“He was recognised for his foresight and passion for Qantas and the aviation industry in general.”

Massy-Greene’s funeral service was held on Wednesday, August 31.

VH-OJA touching down at Illawarra Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
VH-OJA touching down at Illawarra Airport. (Seth Jaworski)