Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways recently completed the first-ever commercial flight from New York’s JFK airport to Sydney. As part of a program dubbed Project Sunrise, the flight was a nearly 20-hour marathon that traveled just under 10,000 miles. Operated by a brand-new Boeing 787-9 on its delivery, it was one of three test flights the airline is doing to explore the viability of a non-stop service from JFK-Sydney. There were only 40 passengers onboard – all test subjects for Australian researchers and Qantas, who hope to perfect ultra-long-haul flying.
Qantas plans to launch the route in 2023, using a yet-to-be-determined airframe (the airline is exploring either the Boeing 777X or the Airbus A350ULR). Currently, the 25 longest flights in the world are all more than 8,000 miles in distance and have block times of 16 hours or longer.
Number 21 on that list is Newark to Hong Kong – which, when launched in 2001, was the longest flight in the world. Ultra-long-haul flying has become an arms race since then – with every airline seemingly trying to outdo the next with mind-numbingly long flights.
While there was much hype surrounding Qantas’ flight, ultra-long-haul flying has almost become commonplace. This flight was more of a PR stunt than anything, but was impressive nonetheless based on the history of how we got here.