The world is currently focused on Project Sunrise, which sees Qantas attempting to start non-stop commercial flights between London and Sydney. However, the carrier once operated a one-off non-stop flight on the exact same route using a Boeing 747. Here’s the story.
The Boeing 747 is known as the Queen of the Skies. The aircraft came about this name as a mixture of its impressive looks, and impressive abilities. Qantas once flew the 747 non-stop between London and Sydney with a flight time of 20-hours and 9-minutes. Despite a couple of obstacles along the way, the aircraft eventually touched down in Sydney claiming the title “longest non-stop un-refueled delivery flight”.
The aircraft used for Qantas’ record-breaking flight was a brand new Boeing 747 registered as VH-OJA. The aircraft undertook the mammoth flight while being delivered from Seattle to Sydney. This is similar to the planned Qantas Boeing 787 flight from London to Sydney later this year.
VH-OJA was named the City of Canberra after the capital city of Australia. You won’t see the aircraft in the skies today, however. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it was retired from the skies in January 2015. The aircraft now resides at the HARS Museum, soon to be accompanied by John Travolta’s Boeing 707.
The mammoth flight from London to Sydney non-stop took place on the 16th of August 1989 according to Traveller. Every possible fuel-saving technique was used onboard the aircraft. Shell provided a specially formulated high-density fuel, the galley and cargo pallets were removed, and the aircraft was towed to the runway.
According to the Flight Global archives, only 18 people were on board the aircraft. However, Qantas themselves and many other publications put this at 23 people, including five pilots, four from Qantas and one from Boeing. The aircraft took off from London Heathrow’s 28R runway at just after 08:30 in the morning.
The flight lasted 20-hours and 9-minutes. However, Qantas had calculated flight time as being between 19-hours and 23-minutes and 19-hours and 54-minutes. As such, the flight was 15 minutes longer than had been expected. GCMaps has calculated that the flight covered a total distance of 11,144 miles, up over 500 miles from the great circle distance of 10,573 miles.
While almost 30 years have elapsed since Qantas flew non-stop from London to Sydney, the carrier hopes to repeat this feat by the end of the year, as Qantas plans to fly a Boeing 787 on the same route. The flight will be part of a delivery flight, in much the same way as the historic Boeing 747 flight was. Following this, as part of Project Sunrise, the carrier plans to one day fly passengers non-stop between the two cities.
Would you be happy flying in an aircraft for so long? Let us know in the comments below!