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Sunday, January 29, 2023

London To Sydney On Concorde: How Long Would It Have Taken?

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At one point, Qantas had four supersonic Concordes on order and intended to put them to work flying to London from Australia. What would have been the flight path and how long would the flight be? Let’s explore!

Qantas wanted to use the Concorde to fly to London. Photo: Getty Images

Behind the Qantas Concorde order

Qantas was one of many airlines that ordered the Concorde aircraft from BAC (the British partner that was building the Concorde with Aérorospatiale). The possibilities entranced them for cutting the legendary Kangaroo route from days into mere hours, and the ocean surrounding the island nation made the idea of sonic booms no consequence for the carrier.

They would then place an option for four aircraft on March 19th, 1964.

Now the Concorde would have flown this route at around Mach 2.5 and would require fuel stops every 4,488.04 miles (7,222.8 km, 3,900 nautical miles).

What was the route?

According to Qantas themselves, the airline planed a complicated multi-stage route from Sydney to London landing in Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, and Cairo.

Kangraoo concorde
The proposed Concorde Kangaroo route. Photo: GCmaps

Passengers would have been able to transfer to partner airlines to reach other destinations or stay onboard for the whole journey.

How long would it have taken?

This would be around 13 and a half hours (10 hours of which would be in the air), and passengers would start with breakfast departing Sydney and have a late lunch before landing in London (local time obviously, the passengers would have a full day onboard).

While a long time to cross the face of the planet, it certainly beats out the current record time of a non-stop flight.

Currently, Qantas operates a direct Perth to London service (still a half-day trip from Sydney) and is planning direct flights with a new Airbus A350-1000.

Why it never happened?

Qantas would also spend $600,000 in 1970 ($16 million AU today or $11.5 million US) to acquire six Boeing 2707 supersonic aircraft, but they would never be delivered.

Likewise, the Concorde production stopped at twenty aircraft (with only British Airways and Air France receiving aircraft), leaving orders like Qantas unfulfilled.

In the end, the rise of the Boeing 747 and other bigger aircraft took the aviation industry in another direction – something that Qantas was more than happy to embrace. They were able to run daily Boeing 747 flights (compared to a scheduled three times a week Concorde flights), which was more economical and profit-making.

Only British Airways and Air France would get the Concorde. Photo: Mike McBea via Flickr

Looking at the route that Qantas planned above, you can see some problems.

  • Opposition grew from several nations to ban the Concorde due to its sonic boom. Major regions like Malaysia and India didn’t want the supersonic aircraft flying overhead (more so for political reasons than noise), and thus this route would have had to skirt the water borders.
  • This change in route would have been more extended, but still under the time of current travel.
  • The fuel burn would have been much higher, and after the oil crisis in the 1970s, it was not very attractive at all.
  • We can’t imagine the aircraft would have flown very fast from Egypt, as it traveled over Greece, Croatia, Italy, and France.

In the end, the Qantas Concorde journey would have a magical slice of history. The aircraft only ever did a tour flight of Australia but never ran any services further than Singapore.

But don’t lose hope, recent developments in supersonic travel point to a market of trans-pacific travel between Asia, Australia, and the United States with faster-than-sound aircraft.

What do you think? Should Qantas have acquired the Concorde? Let us know in the comments.

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