Boeing Could Offer The 777-200LR For Project Sunrise

Could Qantas use a Boeing 777-200LR to launch Project Sunrise now rather than waiting around for Airbus or Boeing to deliver their eventual proposals? According to some close to the source its more possible than you think.

Could Qantas get the Boeing 777-200LR instead of the 777-8X? Photo: Boeing Dreamscape via Wikimedia

What are the details?

Project Sunrise is the Qantas plan to launch flights from London direct to Sydney, Australia. Because the distance is so great, Qantas has requested a special aircraft from Boeing or Airbus to complete the feat. What we know so far is that Airbus offered the A350-1000 (unmodified) and Boeing the 777-8X.

Thanks to production delays, Boeing actually offered a powerful incentive to Qantas to take the 777-8X over the A350, despite production being a few years behind their rival (and a completely unproven aircraft as the 777X series has not even taken flight yet).

For us in the media landscape, we assumed that the 777X incentive for Qantas to wait was a steep discount on the 777-8X aircraft. But it turns out it might be something far more physical… a fleet of Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Qantas - VH-ZNB
Qantas never actually ordered the 777 before. Photo: Steve Lynes via Flickr

Why is Boeing proposing a 777-200LR for Project Sunrise?

According to Airline Ratings who broke this story, this 777-200LR offer is the exact incentive that made Qantas CEO Alan Joyce remark that the Boeing offer was almost too good to pass up. But why offer the 777-200LR in the first place?

Well, for one, the aircraft can do the distance between Sydney and London (and Sydney to New York) with a compromise. The 777-200LR has a range of 15,843 km (8,555 nmi) whilst the range between the two cities is 16,999.5km (9,178.99 nmi).

It would have to do the journey compromising passenger capacity (like the Boeing 787 aircraft used in the test flights). This would likely be a flight carrying 270 passengers in a two-class configuration rather than 317 it normally carries.

United Boeing 777-200 seat map. Photo: United

The proposal is that Boeing would give Qantas a fleet of 777-200LRs to match their Project Sunrise order (whether or not these would be new or refurbished aircraft is unknown) which would then be swapped out for new Boeing 777-8X aircraft as they are delivered. The 777-200LRs would then be converted into freight aircraft for FedEx who is not fussed about the second-hand nature of the planes.

Additionally, as an item of trivia, the Boeing 777 was originally designed for Qantas but the airline never actually bought it.

Is this the only plan on offer from Boeing?

An alternative to this plan would be to offer Qantas the bigger 777-9X when it is operational. With Emirates pulling orders from the Dubai Air Show and Lufthansa delaying their deliveries, space has opened up for Qantas to get the aircraft sooner, should they want it.

But these aircraft would not fly full and would need to make compromises to fly the long distance to Australia.

What do you think about this news? Would you fly on a Boeing 777-200LR to Australia? Let us know in the comments.