Australia’s Qantas continues its extraordinary safety achievements

by Christine Forbes Smith
January 13, 2019

Australia’s Qantas has continued its extraordinary safety record of no fatalities – or hull losses – in the jet era as it enters its 99th year.

But Qantas’s safety record goes much further than the headline of being named the World’s Safest Airline for 2019.

Over its 98-year history, Qantas has amassed an amazing record of firsts in safety and operations.

In 2008, in a successful defense to the British Advertising Standards Association of its claim that it is the world’s most experienced airline, Qantas was able to list almost 30 notable industry-leading achievements.

READ: 2018 worst year for four years for fatal airline crashes

These included the wartime operation from Perth, Australia of what was then, and still is, the world’s longest air route by elapsed time. The flight from Perth to Colombo, Sri Lanka, saw passengers given an award dubbed “The Order of the Double Sunrise.”

This service, using Catalina Flying Boats, took about 28 hours non-stop and was performed in radio silence to avoid the Japanese. When the flights ended on July 18, 1945, the aircraft had made 271 crossings and had carried 858 passengers more than one million miles without a single accident.

Qantas was the first international airline to operate an around-the-world service with its Lockheed Super Constellations in 1958 and the first airline outside the US to take delivery of the Boeing 707 in 1959.

Qantas launched the worlds first round the world service
Qantas’ Lockheed Constellation launched the world’s first round the world service.

The Australian airline was also amongst the first to pioneer technical breakthroughs such as long-range operations for twin-engine planes and the development of the Future Air Navigation System.

Qantas was a leader in using the Flight Data Recorder to monitor plane and later crew performance in 1962. Only six parameters were available, unlike today’s FDRs which monitor thousands on the most advanced aircraft.

Qantas' first Boeing 707
Qantas and Boeing executives about to board the airline’s first Boeing 707 for the delivery flight to Sydney in 1959.

Qantas has also been a leader in a wide variety of recent cockpit innovations such as automatic landings using the Global Navigation Satellite System as well as precision approaches around mountains in cloud. Dubbed GLS and RNP,  these technologies are cutting edge.

Qantas was the lead airline with real-time monitoring of its engines across its fleet using satellite communications, which has enabled the airline to detect problems before they become major safety issues.

And last year the airline linked the last two permanently populated continents, Europe and Australia, with a non-stop Boeing 787 service from Perth to London which started on March 24.

The airline has now challenged Airbus and Boeing to better their A350 and 777X so they can fly 300 passengers from Sydney to London nonstop.