Qantas has selected the Airbus A350-1000 for its Project Sunrise program, which aims to open regular, nonstop commercial routes from the east coast of Australia to ultra-long-haul destinations including London and New York. The airline has not yet put in an order for the aircraft, but says it is working with Airbus to prepare a contract for 12 Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350s. The other aircraft under consideration for the project was Boeing’s 777X.
“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. “The aircraft and engine combination is next generation technology but it’s thoroughly proven after more than two years in service. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long-haul routes if we want it to.”
As previously reported by AVweb, Qantas has already conducted two of three planned research flights aimed at gathering data on crew and passenger well-being during ultra-long-haul flights. The final research flight is scheduled to take place next week. According to the airline, the research data will also be used as part of its discussions with Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regarding the approval of an operating limits extension necessary for Project Sunrise flights.
The airline says it is currently in negotiations with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), which represents the company’s pilots, to close “the last remaining gap in the Project Sunrise business case.” Qantas plans to make a final go/no-go decision on Project Sunrise in March 2020. If the project gets the go-ahead, flights are expected to begin in the first half of 2023.