Last week, Qantas Airways, the largest airline by fleet in Australia, completed the third-longest commercial flight in the world in terms of time, a 17-hour, 9,009-mile non-stop from Perth, Australia, to London. The successful flight, the longest ever by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, marks the start of the only direct air link between Australia and Europe – and the fastest way of traveling between the two continents.
According to GE Aviation, composite technology made the Perth-London flight, known as the Kangaroo Route, “not only possible, but viable.” The company’s FRP composite fan blades on the GEnx engine feature an efficient design, a reduced blade count (from 22 to 18 fan blades) and a composite fan case. The body of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, half of which consists of FRP composite materials, along with GE’s GEnx engines, contribute up to 20 percent lower fuel consumption than other similarly sized aircraft.
“The path to this point in the evolution of the Kangaroo Route is a fantastic story, and we’re proud to have contributed,” says Max York, CEO of GE Australia. “It shows the ability of advanced propulsion technologies like composites and fuel-efficient combustion systems and turbines to revolutionize an industry.”
Composites also allowed Boeing to pressurize the cabin to 6,000 feet as opposed to most other jets which are pressurized at 8,000 feet. As a result, Dreamliner passengers are less likely to experience jet lag.
“This is hands-down the most comfortable aircraft that Qantas has ever put in the sky,” says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, one of the passengers on the historic flight.
The next step for Qantas, according to Joyce, is to evaluate the viability of flights from Australia to the United States. In December 2017, the airliner announced a new route from Melbourne to San Francisco starting this September. Dreamliners will also replace Boeing 747 jumbo jets on Qantas’s existing Brisbane-Los Angeles-New York route. The next frontier from Qantas could be direct flights from Brisbane to Chicago or from Queensland to Seattle or Dallas.