Qantas has completed a direct Heathrow to Sydney test flight as it gathers important data about the feasibility of routine ultra-long-haul services. The flight, QF7879, was operated by a brand-new Boeing 787-9, registration VH ZNJ, named Longreach.
With 43 ‘passengers’ – mainly Qantas employees – and ten crew on board it was airborne from Heathrow at 6.09am on Thursday November 14 and touched down at Sydney 19 hours and 19 minutes later where the local time was 12.28pm.
It follows the non-stop New York to Sydney flight last month as the second of three research flights aim at improving crew and passenger wellbeing on ultra-long-haul services under consideration.
Qantas said the direct flight reduced total travel time by around two hours compared with current one-stop services from the east coast of Australia. It is only the second time any commercial airline has flown this route non-stop, after Qantas flew a near-empty 747-400 in 1989.
The new Dreamliner was met by more than 1,000 Qantas employees to mark the flying kangaroo’s 99th birthday and kick off 12 months of celebrations as it heads towards its centenary in November 2020.
Qantas chairman, Richard Goyder, said: “Qantas is a national icon because it’s been such a big part of Australian life for so long.
“We started in outback Queensland carrying mail and a few passengers in the 1920s. We grew as Australia grew, and we’ve had important support roles during wars, national disasters and celebrations. Our founders talked about overcoming the tyranny of distance and through the years we’ve moved from bi-planes, to single wing, to jets to help bring things closer.”
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce added: “Almost a century after our first flight, Qantas and Jetstar carry more than 50 million people around this country and the globe each year. I’m sure that would amaze our three founders, who held the early board meetings of this company at the local tailor’s shop because it was the longest table they could find.”
“A lot of Australians saw the world for the first time on a flying kangaroo. And a lot of migrants started their life in Australia when they first stepped on a Qantas plane.
“There are so many amazing Qantas stories that also tell the story of modern Australia. We want our centenary to be a celebration of those stories as well as how we’ll be part of taking the spirit of Australia further in the years ahead,” added Mr Joyce.