At the mid-point of its first globe circling tour, at Sydney Airport, Boeing's 777-200LR "Worldliner" had a problem. Despite a slogan reading "Going the Distance," Lars Andersen, the head of the 777 program, admitted there was one notable exception.
"This jet cannot fly Sydney to London non-stop,'" he said. "[It] is easy on paper. This jet can fly non-stop with a full load of up to 301 passengers and 11 tonnes of cargo for 17,446km (Sydney-London is 17,016km). But there is just something about this route (from Australia to London): It gets the most continuous head wind conditions of any. We can't overcome them with a commercially feasible payload, yet flying the other way with a continuous tail wind is no problem at all."
But was Boeing upset? Not for a minute. Despite this one notable exception, Andersen says the plane maker expects to sell a least 400 Worldliners, include a freighter version, over the next 20 years, mainly to Asia-Pacific carriers, including Qantas, the Australian flag carrier. The first of them will enter service for Pakistan International Airlines and EVA Air, based in Taiwan, early next year.
In fact it is considered an all but a done deal by insiders that Qantas is going to include some Worldliners among an order for 40 new Boeings that will be announced as soon as the arm-wrestling over the final price is agreed.
Qantas is just as excited about the Worldliner as it is by the giant Airbus A380 for which it is an early but very annoyed customer because the world's largest airliner is running very late on the production line.
The airline's chief executive officer, Geoff Dixon, said they wanted a hub buster. Qantas wants to be able to fly non-stop to destinations which, at the moment, can only be reached by stopping off along the way.
However Dixon has been more candid talking to financial analysts than the press.
He has reminded them that Qantas really wants to fly right over the top of Singapore and Dubai in particular, on its flights to London, because they are the hub cities of Singapore Airlines and Emirates which he describes as the enemy because of their claimed unfair access to government subsidies.
Dixon accuses them of unfairly curbing Qantas' access to their home markets while exploiting the traffic rights they gained in cities like Sydney in return for Australian carriers being able to land and refuel en route to Europe.
This is also precisely the argument Singapore Airlines used over a year ago when it introduced the world's longest non-stop routes so far between Singapore and Los Angeles and New York City using the Airbus A340-500 which has about 1000km less range than the new Boeing.
The then CEO of Singapore Airlines, Cheong Choong Kong, said in 2003, "We have become frustrated by the restrictions we experienced getting more access to Japan traffic so this special Airbus enables us to by-pass Tokyo on the way to California or New York."
The only thing Singapore Airlines and other leading Asia-Pacific carriers including Qantas appear to agree on is that the complex web of air traffic agreements that apply to the region is best avoided by using jets that fly over the restrictions at 13,000m.
Dixon said: "It is much easier to have a traffic treaty about flights between two countries, than between and beyond two countries."
Currently Qantas is studying whether a one-way non-stop arrangement from London to Sydney but a refueling stop, perhaps even in Russia the other way, will be acceptable to its top corporate customers, who generate most of its premium fare revenues. Another option is to fly to London via New York City and then return non-stop to Sydney on the most direct and fastest tail-wind-assisted route across Siberia and China.
But the number crunchers at Qantas have yet to decide if that is worth it, or whether they should just stick to using the jet to better access America.
The transport analyst with Tourism Australia, Karl Flowers, says the ability to offer non-stop flights to the middle and eastern US could tap a vast holiday market that currently regards the journey between the two continents as being too arduous because of the multiple connections involved.
Flowers says the success Sydney has already had in attracting hundreds of US companies to the harbor city as their base for Asia-Pacific branch offices would be accelerated by offering frequent non-stop flights that will take only 18 hours, or up to 90 minutes less than it does to fly from New York to Singapore.
Time saving aside, is up to 19 hours 30 minutes in a jet humanly possible? Not surprisingly both Airbus and Boeing claim it is. In the Airbus A340-500 which is being deposed by the Worldliner in the range stakes, Singapore Airlines has the most spacious economy class seats of all, as well as sleeper suites in business class.
The A340-500 is even fitted with a single occupancy "morgue" so that in the event of a passenger dying in their seat, they can be discretely removed for the remainder of the flight.
Boeing is not saying if it will offer the morgue option but claims it will have even roomier seats in all classes from economy to first.
It has even put the crew rest bunks in a hidden compartment in the ceiling so that airlines keep more of their seats for sale rather than occupied by a double complement of pilots and relief shifts of cabin attendants.
The Worldliners are also designed for wireless broadband satellite Internet access, another way to deal with boredom, or to keep in touch with head office.
And while Airbus devised a "morgue for one" to avoid one source of unplanned landings, Boeing has applied itself to the toilets. They have been specially designed and tested to withstand the challenges of working perfectly for however long it takes.
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly