The second Qantas “Project Sunrise” research flight, this time flying from London to Sydney, landed after 19 hours and 19 minutes. The record-breaking flight was flown on the carrier’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This latest flight follows a New York to Sydney flight in October and marks the second of three planned research flights that will determine how well passengers deal with ultra-long-haul flights lasting almost 20 hours.
Qantas said the direct flight from London reduced total travel time by around two hours compared with current one-stop services from the east coast of Australia. It is only the second time any commercial airline has flown this route non-stop, after Qantas flew a near-empty 747-400 in 1989. The new Dreamliner was met by more than 1,000 Qantas employees to mark the flying kangaroo’s 99th birthday and kick off 12 months of celebrations as it heads towards its centenary.
Qantas said it would be celebrating its 100th birthday with three components: Special livery on a new Dreamliner that will be seen at airports around the world, featuring every Qantas logo since 1920; an A$1 coin to mark the 100th anniversary that will enter circulation next year; and a touring exhibition that will visit a number of cities around Australia.
Qantas’s chairman, Richard Goyder, said: “Qantas is a national icon because it’s been such a big part of Australian life for so long. We started in outback Queensland carrying mail and a few passengers in the 1920s. We grew as Australia grew, and we’ve had important support roles during wars, national disasters and celebrations. Our founders talked about overcoming the tyranny of distance and through the years we’ve moved from bi-planes, to single wing, to jets to help bring things closer.”
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “Almost a century after our first flight, Qantas and Jetstar carry more than 50 million people around this country and the globe each year. I’m sure that would amaze our three founders, who held the early board meetings of this company at the local tailor’s shop because it was the longest table they could find. A lot of Australians saw the world for the first time on a flying kangaroo. And a lot of migrants started their life in Australia when they first stepped on a Qantas plane. There are so many amazing Qantas stories that also tell the story of modern Australia. We want our centenary to be a celebration of those stories as well as how we’ll be part of taking the spirit of Australia further in the years ahead,” added Joyce.
Qantas described the latest research flight as a “re-purposed delivery flight” that, rather than flying from Boeing’s factory in Seattle back to Australia empty, was positioned in London to simulate one of the Project Sunrise routes under consideration by Qantas. All carbon emissions were offset. The flight departed London’s Heathrow Airport and flew across 11 countries including England, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Philippines and Indonesia before crossing the Australian coast near Darwin, tracking south east across Australia towards Sydney. Remaining fuel upon landing was approximately 6,300kg which translates to about 1 hour 45 minutes of flight time.