The 2nd Qantas “Project Sunrise” flight #QF7879 has just departed London, Heathrow for Sydney on a planned 19 hr 18 min flight time. Australia’s national carrier, Qantas Boeing 787-9 took off from London on its second ultra-long haul research flight, as part of scientific studies into minimising jetlag for passengers and improving crew wellbeing. The first research flight operated between New York and Sydney non-stop four weeks ago with 49 passengers and crew. It cut around three hours off the typical gate-to-gate travel time of current one-stop flights. The airline has re-purposed the delivery flights of three brand new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which would otherwise ferry empty from Seattle to Australia. A third research flight, repeating the New York-Sydney route, will take place in December. The flight #QF7879 marks only the second time in history that a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney. The first was 30 years ago in 1989, when Qantas operated a 747-400 ferry flight between the two cities. The aircraft that performed that flight (VH-OJA) is now on public display at an aviation museum, south of Sydney. The research flight with around 50 passengers and crew will be flying a range of 17,800 km, and expected to take around 19:18 hours. Airbus and Boeing have pitched aircraft (the A350 and 777X respectively) with the range to operate Project Sunrise flights on a commercial basis. These pitches, together with findings from the research flights and other streams of work, will form part of a business case being developed by Qantas to inform a final yes/no decision on Project Sunrise expected by the end of this year. If approved, flights could start as early as start in 2023.
Qantas has named its endeavor “Project Sunrise” after the airline’s historic ‘Double Sunrise’ endurance flights during the Second World War, which remained airborne long enough to see two sunrises.