A Qantas Dreamliner is winging its way from Buenos Aires to Darwin today, a 9,118 mile (14,673 kilometer) odyssey that will take around 18 hours to complete. The flight is going into the record books as the longest ever commercial Qantas flight.
Qantas takes 18 hours to fly a 9,118-mile flight to Darwin
VH-ZNH Great Barrier Reef took off from Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza International Airport at 12:28 local time on Tuesday. At the time of publication, the Boeing is roughly midway through the flight and skirting the Antarctic continent at 37,000 plus feet.
The flight is slightly longer distance-wise than the marathon Perth-London flights Qantas operated until it suspended its international services in 2020. However, it is shorter than the occasional nonstop jaunt between London and Sydney Qantas has flown before. But those London-Sydney flights didn’t carry fare-paying passengers. Today’s flight to Darwin does.
But this is no regular flight. It is another one of the many repatriation flights Qantas runs on behalf of the Australian Government to get stranded Australians home. Nearly eighteen months after borders closed, that saga continues.
Onboard are fare-paying Australians. Some, who were in dire straits, were handpicked to fly by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Others bought tickets normally and had to position themselves at EZE to fly out on Tuesday.
Flight vaults Darwin Airport into rarified company
The flight is interesting for a few reasons. It’s a long flight that will push the Dreamliner towards to limit of its capabilities. The journey overflies a part of the world that rarely sees aircraft. Finally, the flight’s arrival into Darwin rockets that small airport into haloed territory.
According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report on Wednesday morning, this evening’s arrival of QF14 will see Darwin join just three other airports that have ever received nonstop flights from all six settled continents. Those other airports are Doha, Dubai, and London.
“The way the Earth’s geography is, it is exceptionally rare to have non-stop flights from every continent in the world,” an aviation analyst told the ABC.
A long day’s flying up to Darwin
The flight to Buenos Aires passed largely unremarked, but this was also an interesting effort by Qantas. It didn’t fly as far south as today’s flight, but the 7669 mile (12,343 kilometer) flight was likely the first time any airline has flown Brisbane – Buenos Aires nonstop.
The Dreamliner took off from Brisbane on Sunday morning and went as far south as 57 degrees. Flying time was 12 and a half hours, and owing to the dateline, the flight landed in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning.
Today’s flight made it as far south as 75 degrees. At the time of publication, the Dreamliner is skirting the Antarctic coastline (well) to the north of McMurdo Station. The jet is gradually making a sweeping turn northwards and will position for the flight across the Southern Ocean toward Australia.
Once the plane leaves the Antarctic area, the next sight of land will be Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide. Between these two points, there is just a lot of very cold water. After crossing Kangaroo Island later on Wednesday, the flight will fly north across the Australian continent towards Darwin. Not many flights can offer ice and deserts in the one day.
QF14 is scheduled to land in Darwin around 19:00 on Wednesday. After so long in the air, the passengers will get bundled straight into 14 days of quarantine.