Flight took more than 18 hours.
Qantas has flown the longest ever flight on an Airbus A380, all without a single passenger onboard.
The A380-800 aircraft, whose official name is “Reginald Ansett”, completed the 16,105km route from Dresden, Germany to Sydney, Australia on 20 December.
The journey took 18 hours and 26 minutes in total, having set off at 1.34am CET on 19 December and arrived at 6am AEDT the following day.
It was flying a non-commercial service, with neither passengers nor cargo onboard.
The aircraft had spent the last few weeks at Dresden Airport, Airbus’s main maintenance hub, getting an upgrade of a completely new cabin, including new seats and a new lounge.
Having received its facelift, Reginald Ansett was back in service within a few hours of touching down in Australia, according to Airlive.net – this time flying a slightly shorter journey from Sydney to Los Angeles in 13 hours.
It follows the Australian flag carrier’s highly publicised “Project Sunrise” test flights over the past few months.
Qantas has trialled two flights from New York to Sydney and one from London to Sydney, to see whether the 18hr+ journey would be feasible.
Passengers on all pilot flights were medically tested throughout to check how the human body reacts to being at altitude for that length of time.
People in the cabin – mostly Qantas employees – were fitted with wearable technology devices and took part in experiments.
The airline said at the time: “Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.
“Monash University researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights. Pilots will wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness.
“The aim is to establish data to assist in building the optimum work and rest pattern for pilots operating long-haul services.”
Commercial flights on these routes could be on sale by 2022, according to Qantas’s CEO, although it is not “a foregone conclusion”.