With the news that Qantas intends to test London to Sydney direct flights with a normal 787 Dreamliner, one has to wonder Boeing could offer a special extended range 787 for the Australian airline’s ambitions.
What are the details?
As reported this morning, Qantas intends to take a normal Boeing 787-9, strip it of all non-essential cargo (including only allowing 40 passengers on board) and fly it from London to Sydney. They will follow up that test with a similar flight from New York.
“Qantas will run three separate research flights, using newly-built 787s before they go into regular service, to assess wellbeing and comfort. Between October and the end of the year, we’ll collect these aircraft from the Boeing factory in Seattle, position them in New York and London, and fly direct to Sydney.” – Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at a recent press conference.
Part of the problem with these two routes is the distance involved. Qantas has spent the last year waiting for Airbus and Boeing to develop concepts for an ultra-long-range aircraft that can no only do the distance, but be comfortable enough for passengers to sit in for up to 20 hours.
Thus far, the rumored choices are:
- Airbus – A special A350-1000 variant that has extra fuel tanks. Airbus managed to pull off a miracle with their A321XLR variant and it is likely these learnings can be translated to the A350 too.
- Boeing – A extended range Boeing 777-8. Similar to the A350, this version would have a focus on range without compromising on capacity. It would include learnings from the popular Boeing 787-9 that Qantas currently flies London to Perth. This aircraft design, however, has been delayed by more than two years due to problems with the bigger 777-9 design.
However… there is another option that might be on the table.
What about an extended range 787?
Perhaps Boeing could build a special extended range 787, as outlined in a report published recently by Leeham News? This report examined the possibility of a special Boeing 787-10ER and how it would work for Qantas and other carriers interested in ultra-long-range travel. With Qantas using a normal 787 to test the Project Sunrise concept, it would not be far fetched for them to consider an actual 787 with an extra range.
Essentially with delays to the 777-8 program, Boeing has a unique chance to create a 787-10ER variant that could fill in the 777-8’s shoes without delay. They have experience in the past with creating extended range versions, like the 777-300ER and the 767-300ER.
Additionally, building and creating a 787-10ER would be far cheaper for Boeing than building a whole new aircraft (especially if only Qantas is interested in the model). Plus, it turns out that fellow antipodean airline Air New Zealand has ordered eight 787-10s with modified engines to operate a longer range… so why not go the whole nine yards and just make an ER version?
What does Qantas think of this idea?
Simple Flying got in touch with Qantas and asked this very question, in which we got this simple but clear reply:
“Qantas has received the best and final offers from both Boeing and Airbus for their aircraft capable of making the range with a full payload. The two aircraft under consideration are the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.