Qantas completes world’s longest flight
Australia’s Qantas has successfully completed the world’s longest non-stop flight, from New York to Sydney.
Stefica Nicol Bikes and Lidia Kelly had the news for Reuters:
Australia’s flag carrier Qantas (QAN.AX) completed on Sunday a nonstop test flight from New York to Sydney, researching how the world’s longest potential commercial airplane journey of nearly 20 hours would impact pilots, crew and passengers.
Carrying 50 passengers and crew on board, Qantas Flight 7879 on a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner touched down in Sydney on Sunday morning after a 16,200-kilometre (10,066-mile) journey which lasted 19 hours 16 minutes.
“This is a really historic moment for Qantas, a really historic moment for Australian aviation and a really historic moment for world aviation,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce, who took the flight, said after landing.
With demand for air travel rapidly growing and aircraft performance improving, carriers are increasingly looking into ultra-long-haul travel. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the worldwide number of annual passengers to grow from 4.6 billion this year to 8.2 billion by 2037.
The Guardian’s Rupert Neate reported:
They did the Macarena 10,972 metres above Las Vegas, dined on chilli- and lime-poached prawns and spicy “Jiangxi-style” cod and watched a fair few movies, including the Elton John biopic, Rocketman. Well, they had enough time: 19 hours and 16 minutes to be precise.
Aviation history was made at 7.43am on Sunday when Qantas flight QF7879 touched down at Sydney airport, completing the world’s longest ever commercial flight. It had taken off from New York’s JFK airport at 9.27pm on Friday night. Along the way, it produced the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of burning more than 700 barrels of oil.
Just 49 people – including six pilots, six members of cabin crew including a chef, a handful of reporters, six frequent flyers and the airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce – were on board the Boeing Dreamliner flight, designed to test whether passengers can endure the physical and mental effects of extremely long aeroplane journeys.
The flight was restricted to such a small number of passengers in order to ensure that it was light enough to make it all the way to Australia on one tank of fuel. In order to reduce the weight, strict restrictions were put in place, including limiting passengers’ luggage and destocking most of the bar. All the passengers were in business class.
The plane was loaded with 101 tonnes of jet fuel, which made up almost half the total weight of the plane on takeoff. A Qantas spokesman was unable to explain how much carbon dioxide the flight created, but said all carbon emissions from the flight would be offset. The spokesman suggested that the carbon footprint of the direct flight would be less than that created by a two-leg journey because most energy used in flying is on takeoff.
Patrick Hatch from The Sydney Morning Herald focused on the long-term prospects of such flights:
Qantas boss Alan Joyce says he is more optimistic the airline’s so-called “Project Sunrise” will secure the necessary approvals and stack up financially after completing the marathon 19-hour flight from New York to Sydney.
The airline has given itself a hard deadline of the end of December to make a yes-or-no decision on new direct routes from New York and London to Australia’s east coast. On Sunday it completed the first of three ultra-long haul “test flights” to help assess the viability of the services.
Mr Joyce said there were still hurdles to clear before Qantas could be sure the flights made financial sense and gain safety regulators’ approval, but he was confident that could be finished this year.
“It’s not Brexit – it shouldn’t take that long so we should be able to get there with everybody,” Mr Joyce told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on board the test flight, from New York to Sydney.
“There’s a number of hurdles, but I’m eternally optimistic.”
Work still to be done includes convincing Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority it is safe for pilots to fly for more than 19 hours, and negotiating a new pay deal with pilots. Qantas has said “productivity gains” were needed to make the routes viable.
However the union representing Qantas’ international pilots has signalled it will not be swayed by the promise of new aircraft and routes, while also questioning whether enough data is available to fully understand the risks of pilot fatigue on such long flights.
Mr Joyce said Qantas intends to maintain capital expenditure at about $2 billion a year as it introduces 109 Airbus A321neos to the fleet of its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, and also starts replacing its 75 domestic workhorse Boeing 737s over the next decade.