A brand new Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has just touched down in Sydney after completing the second Project Sunrise research flight from London. It has been a long time between drinks for Qantas. The last time they flew nonstop between London and Sydney was in 1989 when the airline brought their first 747-400 to Australia.
Thirty years later, it is a different era. But ultra long haul flights like London to Sydney remain a tricky proposition. Today’s research flight hopes to help overcome that.
From seven months to less than a day
QF7879, operated by VH-ZNJ, is only the second time this nonstop flight has been attempted. It is a marathon 17,000 kilometre trek that has taken over nineteen hours to complete. Sounds like a long trip? In 1788, it took the British seven months to sail between London and Sydney’s Botany Bay (ironically, where Sydney Airport sits).
Qantas notes that it is also almost 100 years to the day since the first flight between the United Kingdom and Australia. On November 12, 1919, a plane took off from Hounslow Heath (near today’s Heathrow Airport) and staggered into Darwin 28 days later. In another of life’s small ironies, VH-ZNJ went over the top of Darwin this morning.
It wasn’t until 1947 that Qantas first ran scheduled services between Australia and the United Kingdom. Those flights took five days and involved six stops, a considerable improvement on 28 days and a huge leap forward from seven months in a leaky boat.
Now Qantas is looking at doing the distance in under a day without stopping. When you look at how the tyranny of distance has been reduced so much within such a short time frame, it is kind of remarkable.