It took the Qantas plane about 18 hours to get from Buenos Aires to Darwin through the Antarctic coast, and it was the airline’s longest commercial journey ever.
An Argentine rugby team charter aeroplane returned to Buenos Aires from Brisbane after the 2021 Rugby Championship on Sunday with the return leg of the team’s journey. The Department of Foreign Affairs was alerted about the trip and worked with Qantas to bring Australians back home on the returning jet.
At 12.44pm local time, flight QF14 departed from Buenos Aires, 19 minutes late, but it landed in Darwin five minutes early, 17 hours and 26 minutes ahead of schedule.
The Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew 15,020 kilometres, eclipsing Qantas’ previous record of 14,498 kilometres between Perth and London for the company’s longest non-stop commercial trip.
The journey had taken a lot of planning, according to Captain Alex Passerini, Qantas’ chief technical pilot, who spoke to reporters before take-off.
“The plane doesn’t need to be changed… it was built for these kinds of tasks, and it succeeds admirably “he asserted,
“Even so, when you’re working at these altitudes, careful adjustment is necessary. Even though there isn’t much other traffic in the South Pacific, it gives us some leeway. However, even tiny changes in the wind can have a big impact on the route we follow. As a result of our flying system’s calculations, this is the case.”
Four pilots, including two captains, would be on board for such a long voyage.
“For take-off and landing, all four pilots are on deck, but after that, we go into a rest programme and begin a rotation. We shortened the flight time to ensure that all of the pilots had an equal amount of rest, so we always had two pilots flying and two pilots resting. Over the length of the flight, you can expect to obtain two hours of sleep total.”
Qantas Captain Passerini, who has flown the Perth-London nonstop route for 30 years, said flying across Antarctica’s coast from South America to Australia is the fastest way to get there.
“Depending on the winds, we’ll fly over the continent at roughly 73 or 74 south latitudes,” he stated. With any luck, we will be able to show our passengers the view from the window.
Upon arrival, the plane flew over the Great Australian Bight before heading to Darwin through the Red Centre.
As the plane flew past the Walker Mountains of Thurston Island, one of Antarctica’s largest islands, Captain Passerini and his co-pilot sent updates via Qantas’ Twitter feed, noting that the temperature dropped to negative 75° Celsius.
Project Sunrise non-stop flights linking London and New York with Sydney were part of Qantas’ test programme, not commercial service. Qantas has already flown larger distances before. The Qantas journey to Buenos Aires is a one-off, yet it marks the airline’s longest paid passenger flight in its 100-year history.
Singapore Airlines flies from Singapore to New York, which is the world’s longest scheduled commercial trip. In March of last year, the 18-hour trip was put on hold, but it was reinstated in December.
However, due to Argentina’s closed borders, several of the passengers on the Qantas return aircraft had to postpone their visits. The flight carried back 107 Australian citizens and permanent residents from South America.
Due to the Argentine government’s cancellation of connecting flights from other South American countries, some Australians were left rushing to find alternate means of transportation in time to depart.
By Joe Cusmano