September 30, 2022
8/17/1989: Qantas Operates Longest Nonstop Delivery Flight

8/17/1989: Qantas Operates Longest Nonstop Delivery Flight

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DALLAS – Today in Aviation, a Qantas (QF) Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA) flew nonstop from London Heathrow (LHR) to Sydney (SYD) in 1989. The record-breaking flight was part of the jet’s delivery flight from Boeing’s Seattle factory.

Named ‘City of Canberra,’ the mammoth journey took 20 hours and nine minutes. Previously, the world’s longest non-stop flight record had been held by a Boeing 747SP, or ‘Special Performance’, which had covered 16,430 kilometers in 17 hours and 22 minutes.

The flight crew from the record-breaking flight. Photo: Qantas

Senior Flight Crew

In command of the Rolls-Royce, RB211-524G-powered Jumbo was Captain David Massy-Greene. He was joined by three other senior QF Captains, Ray Heiniger, George Lindeman, and Rob Greenop, plus a Boeing pilot, Chet Chester.

Just two Flight Attendants were onboard to tend to the 21 passengers, including senior Qantas managers, media, and engineers from Rolls Royce and Boeing.

To complete the flight, engineers had to reduce the aircraft’s weight. They removed all unnecessary equipment from the galley areas and life rafts from all but the forward two doors.

‘City of Canberra’ lands for the last time at its final resting place, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society. Photo: YSSYguy at English WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Unique Fuel Mix

Shell Germany even mixed a special high-density jet fuel to power the epic flight. Rather than taxiing to the runway under its own steam, the aircraft was towed to the holding point of Runway 28R. Here, it was met by a fuel truck that topped up the tanks to a total of 183.5 tonnes.

The 747 needed to fly the optimal route to take advantage of favorable winds. It also cruised at its service ceiling of 45,000 feet to conserve precious fuel.

Qantas retired the historic jet in 2015. It now resides at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Wollongong Airport (WOL) at Albion Park.

Featured Image: VH-OJA pictured on a test flight prior to the record-breaking delivery flight. Photo: Boeing

Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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