How fewer economy seats and an extra tank of fuel will make London-Sydney flights possible


1914: 17 miles

The world’s first commercial air service was a short hop over a small section of Florida’s west coast between St. Petersburg and Tampa – operated by pioneering aviator Tony Jannus and his “flying boat”, as ” The St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.” Despite all his rewriting of travel rules, it was only a partial success.It lasted four months.

1934: 746 miles

Pan American Airways, founded in 1927, made a splash in the burgeoning world of continental airboat travel. Using his new Sikorsky S-42 aircraft, he adds a record-breaking Brazilian leg – between Recife and Sao Luiz – to his overall itinerary between Miami and Rio.

1936: 2,405 miles

Pan Am again, with the first long jump in the Pacific; a Martin M-130 seaplane, carrying only seven passengers – crossing from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

1943: 3,512 miles

Qantas enters the fray with its ‘Double Sunrise’ service between Perth and Koggala in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) – as part of preserving the wartime air link with Britain.

1952: 3,854 miles

Pan Am retakes the record with service between Honolulu and Tokyo – using the state-of-the-art Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, with its two passenger decks and pressurized cabin.

1957: 5,593 miles

Pan Am rival Trans World Airlines (TWA) ups the ante by flying a Lockheed L-1649A Starliner from Los Angeles to Heathrow via the North Pole on September 29 – a trip of 5,456 miles. He ascended it on October 3 via a 5,593-mile odyssey from San Francisco to Paris.

1961: 5,677 miles

Israel’s El Al sets a new benchmark with a connection between Tel Aviv and New York.

1967: 6,253 miles

Aerolineas Argentinas is thinking big with a non-stop flight between Buenos Aires and Madrid.

1976: 7,417 miles

Pan Am inaugurates the first nonstop service between North America and Australia, connecting San Francisco to Sydney in 13 flying hours – and lots of ocean. It would break it again, in the blink of an eye, with a 7,488-mile Los Angeles-Sydney service in 1982.

1991: 7,968 miles

South African Airways connects New York and Johannesburg without stopping for petrol.

December 1991: A New World

The formal dissolution of the Soviet Union opens the skies above Russia, ushering in a new era of long-haul flight, as technological advancements continue to facilitate greater distance.

2020: 9,765 miles

Air Tahiti Nui is forced to think laterally as Covid-19 hits. The American border being closed, he was refused his standard stopover in Los Angeles, and therefore began to fly directly between Papeete and Paris. The service only operated in March and April, before the world came to a standstill, but that was enough to eclipse the then (and again current) world record – Singapore Airlines’ odyssey between Singapore and New York (9,537 miles).

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