Aviation

Qantas prepares for historic nonstop London-to-Sydney research flight

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Qantas is getting ready for its second Project Sunrise research flight, marking the second time in history a commercial airline has flown between London and Sydney.

The flying kangaroo is preparing to board 50 passengers and crew on the non-stop research flight, in a bid to assess the effects of ultra-long-haul flights on both parties, in the second stage of the airline’s ambitious Project Sunrise campaign.

The project forms part of Qantas’ goal to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Speaking to the announcement of the upcoming flight, CEO Alan Joyce said that while similar long hauls like Qantas’ lauded Perth–London service were “a huge leap forward”, flying direct from London and New York to Sydney is the airline’s next big goal.

“The final frontier is New York and London to the east coast of Australia non-stop and we are hopeful of conquering that by 2023 if we can make all elements of the business case stack up,” Joyce said.

Set to take to the skies Friday (local time) from London to Sydney, the flight marks only the second time a commercial airline has ever flown directly from the British capital to Sydney, with the first also flown by Qantas in a 747-400, and nearly 100 years to the day since Qantas operated its first London to Australia flight.

This time, the flying kangaroo will be re-purposing the delivery flights of three brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which would otherwise ferry empty from Seattle to Australia, the airline explained.

Airbus and Boeing have pitched aircraft (the A350 and 777X respectively) with the range to operate Project Sunrise flights on a commercial basis. These pitches, together with findings from the research flights and other streams of work, will form part of a business case being developed by Qantas to inform a final decision on Project Sunrise expected by the end of this year.

If approved, flights could start as early as start in 2023.

The announcement follows a first stage flight from New York to Sydney, which took to the air four weeks ago with 49 passengers and crew. Qantas reported the flight cut around three hours off the typical gate-to-gate travel time of current one-stop flights.

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre as well as the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) will again travel on the non-stop Dreamliner flight to collect passenger and crew data, the airline revealed.

All carbon emissions from the research flights will also be offset, the airline explained. The announcement follows Qantas revealing earlier this week that it plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Speaking to that announcement, Joyce said the solution going forward in cutting emissions is not to “fly less”, but to make it “more sustainable”.

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