SYDNEY: The goal of a non-stop flight from Sydney to London, half the way around the planet, took a leap forward as the world’s top plane makers convinced Qantas Airways they can make the 20-hour route a reality.
A year after Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce publicly challenged Boeing and Airbus to design a plane capable of making a viable direct flight from Sydney to London or New York; he says the manufacturers have succeeded.
“We’re now comfortable that we think we have vehicles that could do it,” Joyce said in an interview in Qantas’s central Sydney offices.
Project Sunrise, as Qantas calls it, involves configuring an aircraft so that it can fly about 300 passengers and their luggage further than any regular service to date, with fuel in hand for unexpected headwinds and emergencies. If the first routes prove viable, direct connections from major cities in the Americas, Europe and Africa to Australia could follow.
Qantas and the manufacturers are dreaming up cabin interiors geared toward surviving such marathon flights. There’s scope to incorporate bunks, childcare facilities and even somewhere to work out, Joyce said.
“We’re challenging ourselves to think outside the box,” he said. “Would you have the space used for other activities — exercise, bar, creche, sleeping areas and berths? Boeing and Airbus have been actually quite creative in coming up with ideas.”
Qantas is sizing up the long-range Airbus A350 against Boeing’s 777X and executives from both manufacturers flew to Sydney to make presentations. Joyce plans to place an order next year and says neither supplier has its nose in front. Competition for the contract could help Qantas get the design and price it wants.
“We are looking at all the options to meet the Project Sunrise requirements but can’t comment on the details of our discussions with Qantas,” Airbus said in an email. Boeing said: “We are confident that we can meet the customer’s requirements in terms of range and capability.”