In 1947, it took four days and seven stops for a Constellation airliner to fly between London and Australia. Today, history was made as the first non-stop commercial Australia to London regular commercial service, Qantas Flight 9 (QF9), took off from Perth Airport. At a little before 7:00 pm local time, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner left the terminal with over 200 passengers and 18 crew aboard and is expected to land at London's Heathrow Airport at about 5:00 am on Sunday after a 17-hour, 20-minute flight.
In 1935, Qantas and Imperial Airways opened the famous Kangaroo Route between London and Brisbane. The first flights with a handful of passengers took 12 and a half days and 31 stopovers. That may sound arduous, but bear in mind that the only alternative was a six-week voyage by steamship. Over the years, the introduction of sea clippers, jets, and other technological improvements reduced the flying time as well as cost, but it wasn't until the latest technological advances that it was possible to make today's first-ever direct passenger flight.
Key to the 9,000 mile (14,498 km) non-stop journey is the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which has been configured to carry 236 passengers and is equipped with sensors to detect and minimize air turbulence, as well as cabin-noise reduction technology. It can carry 92 tonnes of jet fuel for its two GEnx engines and, due in part to extensive use of composites, is claimed to be 20 percent more efficient than any other plane of its size.
QF9 is the world's third-longest regular commercial route and the longest Dreamliner route. Qantas says the marathon flight involves the study of favorable wind patterns, with different flight paths selected depending on the best winds.
For the flight, there were four pilots on board as well as extra cabin crew – allowing them to rest in shifts in a special crew berths. Qantas also says it has employed new methods to make passengers more comfortable on the long haul while reducing the effects of jet lag.
Before the flight, special stretching exercise sessions were available at the Perth International Transit Lounge. The cabin air pressure was increased from the equivalent of 8,000 ft (2,400 m) to 6,000 ft (1800 m) and special menus were laid on to maintain hydration, help passengers to sleep, and reduce jet lag. The timing of meal services has also been adjusted to help passengers sleep.
The aircraft is named "Emily" after the indigenous Australian artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and its livery is inspired by her works.
"This is a truly historic flight that opens up a new era of travel. For the first time, Australia and Europe have a direct air link," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, who is on the flight. "The original Kangaroo Route from Australia to London was named for the seven stops it made over four days back in 1947. Now we can do it in a single leap."
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