Australian flag-carrier Qantas has made the bold claim that it is “investigating direct flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York by 2022.” While this sounds fantastic for people wishing to visit the land down under from both Britain and the Big Apple, there’s just one problem: passenger aircraft that can fly these routes don’t exist. Yet.
Okay…technically that’s a lie. An empty 787 can easily fly 10,000 miles, which is enough to make the run from Sydney to New York. Boeing put the engines of the 787-8 to the test in an interesting flight path of this length.
But obviously Qantas needs to deliver a payload for the route to work. At this point technology still needs to catch up with their vision. But it could be here soon. Very soon.
Next generation aircraft on the horizon
We’ve seen a few recent additions to the aviation world, including some that are fairly revolutionary. The new Boeing 737MAX is going to forever change the transatlantic landscape. The extended range of this fuel-efficient, single-aisle aircraft it going to allow budget carriers like Norwegian to keep chipping away at the East Coast to Europe market.
The 737MAX will also let Southwest Air add Hawaii as a destination in their network, an event for which we can all collectively cheer!
There are some even better aircraft on the horizon. In the ultra-longhaul market, Boeing is developing the 777-8X, an aircraft that will reportedly have a range of 10,000 miles. There have been some delays to the launch timeline, but the jet is projected to be in service by 2020. This is exactly the sort of plane that Qantas will need to fly Sydney to New York, although Qantas doesn’t have any orders in the books with Boeing.
Airbus has some tricks up its sleeve as well. It’s A350-900ULR (for ultra-long-range) is set to be debuted by Singapore airlines next year. As an aside, the SIN-NYC flights won’t feature an economy cabin. Airbus has reportedly increased the range of its A350-900ULR to over 11,000 miles. This would allow for a nonstop Sydney-London route, a coveted market for Qantas. Currently, Qantas planes make a pit-stop in Dubai.
Later this year Qantas will begin offering nonstop Perth-London service utilizing the 787-9 Dreamliner, once again claiming the title of the world’s longest flight.
If Boeing or Airbus can eventually create a viable commercial aircraft that breaks the 12,000 mile mark, there will be little left to conquer. Passengers would then be able to fly nonstop from London to Auckland.
It is certain that there will one day be an aircraft capable of flying the Sydney-NYC route that Qantas desires. Whether the technology will exist by 2022 is up for debate. But if Boeing or Airbus can keep to their current timelines, it’ll likely be reality.
The ability for aircraft to fly longer and longer distances is forever changing the commercial aviation landscape. It is the death knell for traditional hubs, as isolated carriers (like Qantas and ANZ) can reach the markets they desire most.
Plus, new aircraft and routes keep giving aviation geeks more chances to fly the new longest flight in the world.