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Qantas Project Sunrise update

Qantas Project Sunrise update

Despite my prediction, that Project Sunrise will end in tears, progress towards its launch continues. This week has seen a couple of new developments:

  • New livery for a soon to be delivered 787-9 to celebrate 100 years of Qantas flying the skies
  • Qantas is running three Boeing 787 test flights on the proposed routes: two from New York and one from London to the east coast of Australia
  • Qantas Pilots union says three test flights are not enough to demonstrate the effect on pilots and their ability to perform safely
  • Airbus is saying we have the answer for these ultra long-distance flights with the A350-1000

Ok, let’s take this one by one:

New Livery – Centenary Celebrations

Qantas publicity department with its usual flair ran a teaser campaign on social media for this ‘unveiling’. The actuality is a bit underwhelming. The plane is painted with seven versions of the Qantas logo as it has changed over the years. Interesting but not revelatory, considering the already ‘retro roo‘ campaign

The 787 is not the answer to the ultra long haul routes Qantas is proposing, that will come later. Read on . . .

Test Flights – Delivery Flights

Qantas is repurposing three of its 787 delivery flights to use as test flights for the Sunrise Project.

It’s only putting 40 people on board these test flights using 787’s so they can reach the distance. They will be a combination of Qantas staff as the test bunnies, and scientists and medical experts from Sydney Universities Charles Perkins Centre who will monitor sleep, food and liquid consumption as well as environmental matters such as lighting, movement and entertainment systems to assess their effect on health, body clock, and doubtless on customer experience as well.

The Qantas employees and scientists will be joined by at least one journalist – Patrick Hatch from the Sydney Morning Herald. My invitation must have been caught in the mail.

Pilot’s – not happy, Jan

They are pegging their ground already and pointing out that they will not easily be bought off by a new plane being dangled in front of them.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) – the union representing Qantas International pilots famously sacrificed benefits representing a 30 per cent ‘productivity gain’ in 2015 because of the lure of flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

This time around the AIPA is expressing ‘significant caution’ around these ultra long haul flights. Their expressed concern is about the management of fatigue and pilot rest during these 20+ hour flights.

On the other side of the fence, Qantas’s CEO, Alan Joyce is indicating that he expects ‘productivity improvements’ in order to make the Sunrise Project financially viable.

Essentially, each is marking out their territory ready for this ultra long haul negotiation. Both sides have proved their toughness in the past – one has grounded an airline, and the other originated in a union that closed down Australian airlines.

Airbus has the answer

Then we come on to the question of who is going to manufacture the plane with which Qantas is going to fly these ultra-long routes.

Boeing has essentially ceded this race to Airbus, by declaring that it is otherwise occupied with the 737 MAX disaster, and will be delaying the development of its version of the 777 that might compete on ultra long haul routes.

According to Maria Ugena, Head of A350 Product Marketing, as quoted in Executive Traveller, the A350-1000 would:

“In 2022 we are introducing a higher maximum take-off weight (for the A350-1000) and 8,700nm with 275 passengers is something that the airplane will be able to fly in 2022.”

Maria Ugena, Head of A350 Product Marketing at Airbus via Executive Traveller

Interesting, since the standard three-class capacity for the A350-1000 is 350, this is a significant reduction – 21% by my calculations – although my maths is rubbish. It’s interesting because Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously said that the chosen aircraft would have to take a normal commercial load.

Speaking of Alan Joyce, in an article in the Irish Times, primarily about Qantas CEO’s confidence in Boeing’s ability as a planemaker to improve the 737 Max after its two fatal crashes, he comments on an October 9 meeting he had with Airbus:

“We’re working on the price of the aircraft and the performance of the aircraft and we’re nearly there,”

Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce in the Irish Times

Combine that with Maria Ugena’s quotes, and although she would not confirm the development of an A350-1000 Ultra Long Haul, it must be something like that.

Joyce lets slip

Joyce is also quoted in the Irish Times article, that as well as a substantial existing order for Airbus Neo’s, Qantas intends to place an order next year for another 75 aircraft with either Boeing or Airbus.

The article doesn’t say what this aircraft order would comprise. These can’t just be for Project Sunrise?

Speculation welcomed!

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