The flight repatriated 107 Australians and set two Qantas records: longest distance flown (15,020 km or 9,333 miles) and longest time in the air for a commercial flight (17 hours and 25 minutes). Before the pandemic, Qantas’ longest direct passenger flight connected London and Perth, which was “just” 14,498 km (9,009 miles) and 16 hours and 45 minutes.
“Qantas has always been up to a challenge, especially when it comes to long-haul travel, and this flight is a great example of the capabilities and attention to detail of our flight planning team,” said Captain Alex Passerini, one of the four pilots. who barred the plane, said in a statement.
He notes another further achievement: “There were some really spectacular views as we roamed Antarctica. “
The flight, QF14, was aboard a Boeing 787-9 named “Great Barrier Reef”.
The plane left Argentina at 12:44 p.m. local time on Tuesday, October 5, then flew south, crossed Antarctica, and arrived in Darwin at 6:39 p.m. local time on Wednesday, October 6. The trip took place entirely in broad daylight.
The flight from Argentina’s capital to Australia’s Northern Territory isn’t the only one to set a record due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Those on board the QF14 were able to enjoy panoramic views of Antarctica.
Normally, this route crosses the United States and includes a stopover in Los Angeles. Since U.S. aviation regulations require travelers passing through the country to go through U.S. customs, strict coronavirus protocols meant stopping the plane was too complicated.
Instead, Air Tahiti Nui chose to pass the flight straight through, pointing at around 4 p.m. in the sky.
However, aviation geeks who might want to participate in the flight themselves are unlikely to be lucky. A representative of Air Tahiti Nui told CNN that the direct route “was operated on an exceptional basis.”
The flight wasn’t listed as a typical fare, however – it was a special experiment designed to see how humans could physically cope with spending such a long time in the sky.
A team of “guinea pigs”, including scientists and pilots, participated in the project. But since there were no paying passengers on board, the Project Sunrise trip was not eligible for the “longest flight” record.
CNN’s Francesca Street contributed to this report.