MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner made history in 2005 when it completed the longest nonstop flight operated by a commercial aircraft.
The jet departed Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) destined for London Heathrow Airport (LHR). According to Guinness World Records, it flew a distance of 13,433 mi (21,592 km) and spent 22 hrs and 42 mins in the air.
The aircraft’s cabin was specially configured for its trip. It had business class seats for passengers, a reception area for presentations, several economy seats, and some test equipment. Geoffrey Thomas, one of the writers on board, described it being like a “personal VIP jet.” A total of 35 people including Boeing executives, airline customers, media journalists, and Pilots were present for the around-the-world flight.
Two sets of Pilots were required for the flight. Captain Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann and Captain Frank Santoni were at the controls when the Worldliner departed Hong Kong. Captain John Cashman and Captain Randy Austin would take over for them later en route.
Flying the Wrong Way
What makes the record-setting flight of the Worldliner especially unique is the route it took. The aircraft should have flown west across China, Russia, and northern Europe. Instead, it turned east after departure and flew over the Pacific Ocean towards the United States. Some Air Traffic Controllers were even reportedly confused as to why the aircraft flew such an extended route.
“The flight plan we have in place will allow us to set a new distance record well above the current one,” said Captain Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann. “I’m honored to be among the team of outstanding Boeing people who have made this historic flight possible.” She was the ‘Project Pilot Leader’ for the record flight, according to Boeing.
The 777-200LR Worldliner was designed as an ultra-long-haul aircraft. The ‘LR’ in the name stands for ‘long-range’, and Boeing dubbed the aircraft Worldliner after claiming it could “connect virtually any two cities in the world with nonstop service.” The jet’s public unveiling on February 15, 2005, drew over 5,000 Boeing employees, airline representatives, suppliers, and government and community leaders in attendance.
Up to 317 people can be seated on the Worldliner in a 2-class configuration, or up to 301 people in a 3-class configuration. The aircraft has the option to be powered by General Electric GE90-110B1 or GE90-115B turbofan engines. It can fly at a ceiling of 43,100 ft (13,100 m) and has a cruise speed of 554 mph (892 kph). Its fuel capacity is a whopping 320,863 lb (145,538 kg).
Alan Mulally, former Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer said of the type, “The 777-200LR Worldliner is the latest innovation in our highly successful 777 airplane family. The 777 family consists of five passenger models and a freighter version in development that safely and efficiently serve the needs of our customers while providing passengers and cargo operators with more of what they want — affordable, comfortable, nonstop flights to the destinations of their choice.”
Pakistan International Airlines (PK) was the first carrier to operate the Worldliner in 2006. Today, the jet is still one of the longest-range commercial aircraft available. It continues to be produced by Boeing.
The longest-ranged commercial aircraft in Boeing Commercial Airplanes livery banking left over a mountain as engineers test the airplane. This flight is one of the many conducted during the six-month flight test program. Photo: Boeing Dreamscape – K63367-05, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13356053