What the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and future aircraft could mean for Qantas’ aspirations of ultra long haul flights.
PICTURED ABOVE: VH-ZND ‘Yam Dreaming’, the special livery 787-9 Dreamliner that completed the first Perth to London nonstop flight. (Image from Australian Business Traveller)
Article by Ben Libeskind
March 24th saw a big dream come true for Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier airline: the first scheduled nonstop service between Australia and Europe. Flight QF9 took off from Perth bound for London Heathrow at 6:49pm and landed in Heathrow at 5:03am the next day – a total of 17 hours and 14 minutes, according to data on FlightAware.com. First in command was Captain Lisa Norman, manager of Qantas’ 787 introduction program with 30 years of flying experience under her belt. The historic flight was operated on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, a modern airliner with range capabilities superior to the rest of the Qantas fleet. The aircraft has been known for the technical difficulties, most notably the battery fires that plagued it in its introductory phase. However, with most of the technical hiccups resolved, the aircraft is making many new flights feasible, such as low demand, long haul flights and flights with distances too long for the ranges of most airliners, all while providing airlines with high fuel efficiency and passengers with extra inflight comfort.
Captain Lisa Norman at the controls of the 787. (Image from AWOL)
Fuel is costly and heavy, and one of the obstacles to the economic feasibility of ultra long haul flights has been the high cost of the large amount of fuel consumed to carry the fuel needed to make the journey. The 787-9 makes such flights less costly due to its high fuel efficiency. With its new, efficient, and long-ranged plane, Qantas now hopes to push even closer to the United States east coast as it eyes Sydney to Chicago as a potential new route. Adding Melbourne as a destination from Dallas-Fort Worth has also been made possible by the 797-9. Smaller cities with lower demand for Australia flights such as Seattle could also see new nonstop service with the Dreamliner.
The 777-8X could connect Sydney with New York and London. (Image from Australian Aviation)
As far as Qantas’ new Dreamliner may fly, it still leaves London out of reach from Sydney and the United States’ east coast off the map of nonstop possibilities. Fortunately for Qantas, Boeing may soon have the fix: the new 777X series with two variants: the 777-9X and 777-8X. Developed from today’s 777 series, the 777X series will feature a stretched fuselage with larger windows and revamped interiors, new engines, and wings so long that they will have to fold up to make room for other aircraft when parked. The smaller of the two 777X variants, the 777-8X may be produced in an increased range version dubbed the 777-8LX with the unique ability to connect Sydney to both London and United States’ east coast cities, nonstop. Qantas has hinted interest in the 777-8LX for use on these hypothetical 19-20 hour long flights.
The introduction of long-range, fuel efficient airliners is radically changing the way regions of the world are connected. Qantas is capitalizing on these developing innovations, widening Australian nonstop routes. If such flights are a success, other airlines may introduce new, nonstop routes that would not have been possible until this decade. Soon, a long flight to a mandatory study abroad destination could be few hours shorter.