Chasing the double sunrise was a night and a day … and another night, and yet another day to remember! As we settled into our seats on the Boeing 777-200LR, CNN’s irrepressible Richard Quest quipped: “Are we there yet?” We all laughed but in fact, we didn’t want to arrive just yet. We were taking part in history. I was one of 35 aboard the 777-200LR record-breaking flight from Hong Kong to London — the wrong way around — on November 9, 2005. In fact, in our sights were two Qantas records. The airline that is about to link Perth to London nonstop this Saturday had set a distance record in 1989 of 17,982 km when its first Boeing 747-400 flew non-stop from London to Sydney on its delivery flight. SEE Stuuning air-to-air images of Qantas’ 787. That flight had only 18 passengers and crew, no galley equipment and used special fuel. It took 20 hours and nine minutes and the 747 used up most of its 183.5 tonnes of fuel. The other record the 777-200LR was after was “The Order of the Double Sunrise”, which wartime passengers on Catalina flying boats received on the truly remarkable 27 to 33-hour non-stop flights from Perth to Lake Koggala in southern Sri Lanka. Those unarmed Catalinas were really stripped down. They even lacked electric hotplates for making coffee, and they could only carry three passengers — usually military staff. No such austere flying conditions for us. Boeing had fitted out its 777-200LR demonstrator with a luxury interior, complete with a reception area for presentations and a big business-class seating zone. It was like our personal VIP jet, complete with the very best champagne. The author, with the route map. But before that could flow, there was the small challenge of getting airborne. Every effort was made to conserve fuel and the aircraft was specially washed down to rid it of 150kg of dirt. Passengers were restricted to just 18kg of baggage including laptops and cameras, a situation that provided most of us with serious challenges — and revelations of how achievabletravelingg light actually is. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways engineering staff tended the 777-200LR as if it was their own, while operational staff provided endless flight-plan support — mostly in their own time. In command was Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann and she eased the throttles forward at 10.30pm and within 40 seconds we were airborne to rousing cheers. The bright lights of Hong Kong quickly slipped away. Aside from our nine pilots, there was a representative from the National Aeronautic Association to certify that Boeing followed the complex rules for setting records to the letter. Earlier, all passengers and bags had been weighed. In fact, every item on board had been weighed. The National Aeronautic Association has plenty of experience in such things having monitored the Wright Brothers’ distance-record flight in 1905 — and every record flight since. Under the rules, Boeing selected three-way points three hours before take-off. Setting a distance record is like a yacht race, with the aircraft having to fly over rather than around a marker, but what it does to get to that mark is up to the crew. Like a smart yachting skipper, the 777 pilots could fly out of the way to pick up stronger tailwinds. Our first marker was on the International Date Line north of Midway Island in the central Pacific Ocean. The second was over Los Angeles International Airport and the third over New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Just 18 minutes after leaving Hong Kong, the 777-200LR reached its initial cruising altitude of 29,000ft and Capt. Darcy-Hennemann eased right back on the throttles — and what a difference to the fuel burn. At take-off, the two GE90-110b engines consumed 22,700kg of fuel an hour but now they were quite happy with just 6810kg and, later in the flight, that would fall to just 4086kg an hour. That’s a miserly 2.6L/100km per passenger for a typical load. About one hour before the 777 reached the International Date Line, and its first way point, passengers witnessed their first sunrise. The first sunrise from the Boeing 777-200LR cockpit After the first waypoint, the crew turned north-east to find a promised jet stream that would give us a kick. And kick it did. A 244km/h tailwind had us at 1137km/h and racing towards Los Angeles. Over Los Angeles, it was the happy hour as we were at the halfway point. Happy Hour over LAX Then-Boeing president Alan Mulally phoned the aircraft, to offer “congratulations”. And other aircraft chipped in via air traffic control to wish us well. We were soon over Denver to pick up more fair winds and then east towards New York and Newfoundland where the first hint of the second sunrise had everyone sharp with cameras. CNN and the BBC had cameras in the cockpit to record the historic event. As the Order of the Double Sunrise record fell, Capt. Rod Scarr announced to those in the cockpit that Qantas’ longstanding distance record had also just fallen. Second sunrise over Newfoundland. Touchdown in London was greeted with cheers. We had been in the air for 22 hours and 42 minutes. Incredibly, when the engines were shut down, there was still 8490kg of fuel left — almost enough for another two hours flying. It was sobering to think that this aircraft had conquered in just one flight the three greatest challenges in commercial aviation — non-stop air travel over the continental US and Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Touch down in London It was not until 1953 that commercial flights could fly non-stop across the US in both directions and the crossing of the Atlantic became non-stop in 1956. The Pacific was eventually crossed non-stop in the 1980s. This article is the first in a series about record-breaking flights to commemorate the first non-stop commercial flight from Australia to the United Kingdom.