Virgin Australia has pulled off one of the world’s longest flights, flying for almost 20 straight hours to Brisbane after its first-ever visit to Paris.
The airline, which suspended its international services and almost all domestic flights due to the coronavirus crisis, has continued to operate charter flights to bring home Australians and other expats from overseas.
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The marathon Paris-Brisbane direct flight, which landed on Wednesday night, was the second leg of a mission to Paris via Auckland and Hong Kong to repatriate French citizens in New Zealand.
The Boeing 777-300ER left Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport with 144 tonnes of fuel and arrived in Brisbane with just six tonnes left.
The journey took 19 hours and 43 minutes over 9888 nautical miles or about 18,310.
Virgin Australia explained to news.com.au planning the massive flight wasn’t as simple as finding the quickest route between Paris and Brisbane.
It said there were a number of restrictions and factors to consider, including its choice of Enroute Adequate Airports — airports along the flight path where the jet could safely land if it needed to.
For this journey, the journey was plotted from Paris to Rome (LIRF), to Bahrain (OBBI), to Colombo (VCBI), to Singapore (WSSS), to Darwin (YPDN), to Alice Springs (YBAS), to Townsville (YBTL) and finally Brisbane (YBBN).
As it selected those airports the airline had to consider things like runway length, the standard of aviation fire and rescue provisions, air traffic control and the availability of ground crew and equipment should it need to land.
“We also have to look at the level of weather forecasts that are available for the airport and the availability and accuracy of the airports’ arrival and landing procedures,” Virgin Australia told news.com.au.
“We also have to ensure that our flight stays within three hours flying time of at least one of these airports at all times.”
Operating crew were consulted to make sure they were comfortable flying through airspace Virgin Australia doesn’t typically operate in.
Wind data was also considered, so the airline could assess the planned performance of the aircraft and the most efficient flight levels.
This isn’t the only time the coronavirus pandemic has prompted airlines to pull off a rare feat.
Last month, an Air Tahiti Nui set a record for the longest ever scheduled passenger flight after clocking 15,715km from Papeete in French Polynesia to Paris.
The scheduled flight usually involved a stop over in Los Angeles, which wasn’t possible after the United States imposed travel restrictions, so the jet had to fly directly to Paris.
In 2019 the world’s longest scheduled flight was Singapore Airlines’ 6700km non-stop service from Singapore to Newark that takes around 18 hours and 30 minutes.