December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Commercial Airplanes

A trip to savor

777-200LR goes the distance—literally—on record-setting flight


A trip to savorWhen you design an airplane to fly farther than any other commercial jetliner, what's the logical thing to do with it? You put it on a record-setting flight! That's what Boeing did with the 777-200LR Worldliner last month.

The 777-200LR (Longer Range) established a new world record of 11,664 nautical miles (13,422 statute miles, 21,601 kilometers) for distance traveled nonstop by a commercial airplane when it landed at London's Heathrow Airport on Nov. 10. It departed to the east from Hong Kong on Nov. 9, crossing two oceans and a continent in 22 hours and 42 minutes. With the fuel left over it could have continued on to Paris.

"The performance of the 777-200LR during the record flight was exceptional," said Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, the project pilot leader for the flight. "It took the support of a great team of people to make this historic flight a success."

Rod Skaar of Commercial Airplanes Flight Operations group, who led the flight's logistical effort and route planning, said detailed planning started about six months before the flight. The team supporting the flight had to consider three important factors:

  • Fuel. The airplane needed enough of the right fuel. The density of fuel is measured in pounds per gallon; higher density means more energy. However, the world's lowest-density fuel is typically found in Southeast Asia, from where the 777-200LR took off, Skaar said. To maximize the amount of high-density fuel in the airplane's tanks, the tanks were filled with high-density fuel in Seattle and "topped off" in Hong Kong prior to the record flight.
  • Weight. The National Aeronautics Association classifies records by weight category, so the airplane, passengers and luggage had to be carefully weighed. Each of the 35 passengers was limited to 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of total luggage. Total takeoff weight was 711,000 pounds (322,500 kilograms); about half of that was fuel.
  • Winds. Another key factor was determining the optimal flight path with the best tailwinds. To compute the record distance, the flight team had to declare three turn points between Hong Kong and London to the NAA observer on the flight. "The key is to pick those turn points where they will maximize the wind advantage and take into account all of our flight restrictions," Skaar said. The turn points selected were just northwest of Midway Island on the International Dateline, Los Angeles and New York City. The official distance of the flight is measured by adding up the distance between these points.

For an airplane of its size and class, the 777-200LR broke the distance record set by a Qantas 747-400 in 1989 that flew 9,200 nautical miles (17,039 kilometers) from London to Sydney. Also, the 777-200LR exceeded the distance traveled by a 777-200ER (Extended Range) that flew 10,823 nautical miles (20,044 kilometers) from Seattle to Kuala Lumpur in 1997. This record will continue to stand because the 777-200ER was in a lighter weight category.

David Massy-Greene was the Qantas pilot in command of the 747-400 that set the previous distance record. Now a Boeing employee, Massy-Greene contacted the flight crew of the 777-200LR to wish them luck before the flight and congratulated them afterward. "I always knew someone else would come along and break the record, because records are meant to be broken," he said. "I'm delighted that such a wonderful team and airplane did it."

777-200LR record flight facts

Record distance: 11,664 nautical miles (13,422 statute miles, 21,601 kilometers)
Time: 22 hours, 42 minutes
Weight at takeoff: 711,000 pounds*
Fuel weight at taxi:
360,700 pounds*
Fuel weight at takeoff: 360,000 pounds*
Fuel used: 342,000 pounds*
777 orders booked during flight: 18, from Air Canada
Oil burned by GE-90B-115 engines: 1 quart
Items requiring maintenance after flight: 0
Average speed: Mach 0.83
Average tailwind: 71 knots
Passengers onboard: 35

* A gallon (3.8 liters) of Jet A fuel weighs 6.7 pounds (3 kilograms)


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