What a difference 30 years can make

Published on 14th November 2019 at 14:40

Touchdown: OJA lands on a wet grey Sydney day after more than 20 hours in the air

Back in 1989, Qantas became the first airline to fly non-stop from London to Sydney. And we’re about to do it again.

This time, we’re using the next generation twin engine Boeing 787 Dreamliner, an aircraft which already links Australia to London in a single hop from Perth.

The London to Sydney flight is one of three research flights we are conducting for Project Sunrise, our ambition to offer scheduled direct services from the east of Australia to London and New York from 2023.

Thirty years ago, preparations to fly our first Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA) from London to Sydney were shrouded in secrecy.

Only 23 people were onboard, and more than two tonnes of equipment was removed to save weight.

Galley equipment, including some of the coffee makers were taken from the aircraft. Even passengers’ luggage was flown back to Sydney on a different plane.

More than 500 kilograms of fuel was saved by having the aircraft towed from the gate to the start of the runway.

A special blend of avgas was also created, the mix produced four per cent more energy per litre, helping get the best efficiency out of the Boeing 747-400s four engines.

This time, our London to Sydney flight will have 52 passengers and crew onboard and we expect to use only half of the fuel required back in 1989. We’re also offsetting all the carbon emissions of each flight.

The flight plan is 201 kilometres shorter than what we flew in 1989, largely thanks to the opening of airspace over places like the former USSR and China.

All up, the Dreamliner is expected to make the distance in 19 hours and 30 mins, almost forty minutes faster than the journey made by OJA. And this time, passengers will travel with their bags!

It’s a far cry from our first international service back in the 1930s when we flew to Singapore and then partnered with Imperial Airways onwards to London with a journey time of 12 days.

Keep an eye on Qantas’ Twitter for live updates from the cockpit of QF 7879 and track the flight on Flight Radar 24.