The race around the world

In Jules Verne’s classic novel 19th century novel, protagonist Phileas Fogg bets 20,000 pounds on being able to go, as the title of the book states, “Around the World in 80 Days“.

Since its publication in 1873 (and subsequent translation into English) the work of fiction has spawned multiple real-life attempts.

Some, such as Michael Palin, sought to recreate Verne’s itinerary and complete the journey in 80 days.

Others thought to show it could be done quicker – Nelly Bly cut it to 72 days in 1889, while James Willis Sayre brought it down to 54 days using only public transport in 1903.

The achievements of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright in inventing the world’s first aeroplane in 1903 would serve as the catalyst that turned a journey of months into one of weeks.

It also helped bring Australia closer to Great Britain.

In the Australian Government inspired Great Air Race of 1919, Ross and Keith Smith, along with mechanics Sergeants Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett flew their Vickers Vimy G-EAOU from Hounslow aerodrome in West London to Fannie Bay in Northern Territory in a month.

The prize was 10,000 pounds and a place in the history books.

The crowd gathers for the Great Air Race arrival. (NSW Library)
The crowd gathers for the Great Air Race arrival. (NSW Library)

There was a further step change at the dawn of the modern jet era in the first half of the 20th century, which reduced the total travel time to cross the globe from weeks to days.

A file image of the Catalina G-AGKS that Qantas operated for the Royal Australian Airforce during WWII. (Wikimedia Commons)
Those who flew the Catalinas between Perth and Sri Lanka were made members of the “Secret Order of the Double Sunrise”. (Wikimedia Commons)

And in 1958 Qantas had Super Constellations operating two around-the-world services, one travelling east via India along the traditional “Kangaroo Route” and another heading east on what the airline termed the “Southern Cross Route” via the United States. The total trip time took six days.

The Qantas Founders Museum is restoring a Super Constellation into Qantas livery, as this Instagram post shows.

Fast forward to today and the total travel time to go around the world is measured in hours and a feat for which world records are set.

In January, Etihad Airways executive Andrew Fisher successfully completed a circumnavigation of the globe using regularly scheduled passenger flights in 52 hours and 34 minutes.

His time set a new benchmark for the Guinness World Record category of the “Fastest circumnavigation by scheduled flights through approximate antipodal points”, eclipsing the previous record by three hours and 13 minutes.

The New Zealander’s 22,341nm journey began in Shanghai, China and comprised four flights – Air New Zealand to Auckland, New Zealand; Air New Zealand again to Buenos Aires, Argentina; KLM to Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and finally China Eastern back to Shanghai.


VIDEO: Andrew Fisher’s around the world journey was featured in a video on Etihad Airways’ YouTube channel.

Fisher had initially planned a five-flight itinerary. However, he managed to complete the journey in four flights.

“With the advent of new longer range and fuel-efficient aircraft over the years, airlines have been able to introduce non-stop long haul flights and add frequencies that facilitated my record-breaking attempt,” Fisher said in a statement.

“Planning the trip was a matter of identifying the most suitable qualifying antipodal city pairs and then finding the best routes, schedules and tightest possible connections within the right window of opportunity.”

Fisher’s comments refer to the rules regarding this world record attempt.

The circumnavigation needs to cross the equator and meet certain “antipodal points” – essentially two points that are almost on exactly the opposite ends of the earth or at the very least an airport within a prescribed distance to those antipodal points.

Andrew Fisher's record-breaking around the world journey. (Etihad Airways)
Andrew Fisher’s record-breaking around the world journey. (Etihad Airways)

Could four eventually become three?

The commencement of Qantas’s Boeing 787-9 Perth-London Heathrow flights – which link the continents of Europe and Australia with regularly scheduled nonstop passenger service for the first time – on Saturday March 24 adds another new ultra-long-haul option to the mix for someone to considering taking a fresh tilt at the record.

The QF9 westbound leg of the 7,829nm journey has a block time of 17 hours and 20 minutes, while the reciprocal QF10 is scheduled for 16 hours and 45 minutes.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND "Yam Dreaming" is one of four Dreamliners that will operate Los Angeles-Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow flights from March 24. (Qantas/James Morgan)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND “Yam Dreaming” is one of four Dreamliners that will operate Los Angeles-Melbourne-Perth-London Heathrow flights from March 24. (Qantas/James Morgan)

And looking further ahead, an obscure route request from fledgling startup carrier Norwegian Air Argentina, a part of Europe-based low-cost-carrier (LCC) group Norwegian, could be the missing link that turns four into three for an around the world journey.

However, before heading online or to your travel agent to make those bookings, some notes of caution.

First, Norwegian Air Argentina has not begun flying. It was expected to commence operations some time in the middle of 2018.

Second, the Perth-Buenos Aires city-pair was one about 150 routes its submitted to the Argentine National Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC) for approval. And Perth-Buenos Aires is unlikely to be the first, or even one of the first, routes in its schedule.

However, news of the route approval, as well as plans to operate ultra-long-haul route as part of a Buenos Aires-Perth-Singapore routing, has some very excited.

Argentine Chamber of Commerce Australia executive director Diego Berazategui told The West Australian newspaper Perth stood to benefit from a “new wave of visitors from both Asia and Latin America”.

“The study shows that a trans-polar flight between Buenos Aires and Perth would take less than 15 hours and would position Perth as a great midpoint destination for international travellers between Asia and Latin America,” Berazategui told the newspaper.

“This could have a major impact on the number of people visiting Perth and should be considered an important part of the WA Asian Engagement Strategy.”

In September 2017, Norwegian Air Shuttle commenced nonstop flights from Singapore and London Gatwick with Boeing 787-9s. It is the world’s longest LCC route by distance at 5,873nm.

A file image of a Norwegian Boeing 787 at London Gatwick Airport. (Norwegian/Steve Bates)
A Norwegian Boeing 787 at London Gatwick Airport. (Norwegian/Steve Bates)

Comments

  1. Diego says

    And looking further ahead, an obscure route request from fledgling startup carrier Norwegian Air Argentina….

    What do you mean by obscure? I think it is diaruptive instead.

  2. australianaviation.com.au says

    indeed. thanks Colin. the story has been updated. apologies for the error