Qantas gears up for the second "Project Sunrise" research flight


Sydney, Australia - The Australian flag carrier Qantas will fly a nearly empty a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from London Heathrow to Sydney as part of “Project Sunrise”.

The 787-9 registered VH-ZNJ will take off from Heathrow and fly directly to Sydney with no paying passengers onboard. The aircraft is painted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Australian flag carrier in 2020.

It flew from Boeing's Everett factory to Los Angeles first, and after five days left Los Angeles for London-Heathrow. Qantas' Dreamliners are usually ferried from Everett to Sydney with a direct flight. But this time it's different.

With this flight, the airline will test Sydney - Heathrow - Sydney route, which will be launched in 2022. It will be the second research flight for "Project Sunrise". The first flight was successfully carried out last month between New York JFK and Sydney.

Like the previous flight, this flight will also be carried out with around 40 Qantas employees, including crew, in order to minimize weight and give the necessary fuel range. The flight will take around 18 hours, 45 minutes, thanks to the tailwinds for much of its journey. The same route was flown with a Qantas Boeing 747 in 1989 and took 20 hours and nine minutes.

Qantas' new Dreamliner (Flight QF7879) will take off from Heathrow at 6 a.m. local tomorrow (Nov. 14) and will arrive in Sydney at 11.45 a.m. local the following day (Nov. 15).

The route that will be flown

The exact route will depend on meteorological conditions, but it is likely to stick closely to the “great circle” route – the shortest distance between two points on the surface of the earth.

The flight will start with an initial heading east-north-east to Copenhagen, then across Klaipeda in northern Lithuania, Latvia and into Russian airspace – passing north of Moscow.

The northernmost point en route is likely to be close to the city of Nizhny Novgorod at 56.3 degrees north – the same as Perth (Scotland, not Western Australia). The flight path, then smoothly turns south and steadily builds its southward trajectory, crossing the northern Kazakh frontier about halfway along its length.

During the night time, Qantas' Dreamliner will fly over northeastern Kazakhstan until it reaches the Chinese border. The aircraft will spend over five hours crossing China, longer than any other country, before reaching the coast at Hong Kong and setting off across the South China Sea.

It then cuts across the Philippines and miscellaneous Indonesian islands before making landfall in Australia, close to Darwin, around sunrise. Even here the aircraft has almost 2,000 miles and four hours of flying to cut diagonally the Northern Territory, Queensland, and northern New South Wales before landing at Sydney International Airport.

Project Sunrise Research Flights – Key Facts

Non-stop flights from New York and London to Sydney will take around 19 hours each, subject to wind and weather conditions. The data will be used to inform all Sunrise flight planning, including from Brisbane and Melbourne.

The aircraft will position from Boeing’s factory in Seattle, where they will be collected off the production line by Qantas pilots, and flown to their starting points of New York (for two of the flights) and London (for one flight). Cabins will be fully fitted out and otherwise ready to enter normal commercial service.

The flights will take place in October, November and December, in-line with scheduled aircraft deliveries from Boeing.

Flights will have up to 40 people (including crew) on board and a minimum of luggage and catering to extend the range of 787-9.

Other than crew, those in the cabin will mostly be Qantas employees taking part in testing. No seats will be sold as these flights are for research purposes only.

After the flights, each aircraft will enter regular service with Qantas International – with just a few extra miles on the clock.

Qantas operates the largest airline carbon offset scheme in the world. This same program will be used to offset all the carbon emissions from these three flights.

What is Project Sunrise?

"Project Sunrise" is an initiative launched by Qantas to provide non-stop flights between the cities in the east coast of Australia and New York and London. Although the 787-9 Dreamliners are used for the research flights, Qantas is in talks with Boeing and Airbus to launch these routes in 2023 with the special variants of the Boeing 777X or Airbus A350XWB.

Also read: Boeing offers Qantas the 777X for "Project Sunrise" routes

Also read: Qantas to order 12 widebody jets to operate on "Project Sunrise" routes

Currently, the longest commercial route in the world is being flown between New York and Singapore, which was launched in 2018 by Singapore Airlines. The route is served with an Airbus A350-900 ULR and lasts around 18 hours.


The aircraft landed at Sydney International Airport at 12:28 p.m. local time. The flight took 19 hours and 19 minutes, around 30 minutes more than planned.