Darwin-London history relived as Qantas operates first non-stop flight.

March 24, 2020
Qantas A380 darwin london
The A380 on the ground in Darwin. Photo: Qantas.

The Northern Australian city of Darwin has had a few aviation firsts in its history and now it’s chalking up another one as Qantas operates non-stop commercial flights to London.

Qantas is rerouting its flagship QF1/QF2 Airbus A380 services via Darwin from Tuesday as a result of government restrictions in Singapore that do not allow transit passengers.

The flight is expected to take 16 hours and 45 minutes to fly from London to Darwin and 16 hours and 20 minutes on the return leg.

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The aircraft will depart Sydney at 6 pm local time and arrive in Darwin at 9:15 pm. It departs at 11 pm after a “gas and go” refuel before arriving in London the following day at 6:15 am.

The return flight departs London at 10:05 pm, arriving in Darwin at 23:55 pm and departing at 1:15 am for a 7 am arrival in Sydney.

The flight is very different from an epic event at the start of Darwin’s aviation history and that also indirectly involved Qantas.

That event was the arrival of the Smith brothers in a Vickers Vimy to claim the £10,000 prize from the Australian Government for the first flight from England in what was dubbed “The Great Race”.

The 10 December 1919 arrival of war hero Captain Ross Smith, brother Keith and mechanics James Bennett and Wally Shiers after a trip that took 27 days and 20 hours from Hounslow airfield in London at an average speed of 137kmh.

The crew endured freezing conditions in an open cockpit as they made their way across the Middle East, India and South-East Asia to land in Darwin on a wet afternoon.

They were met at the airport by Hudson Fysh and Paul McGuinness who had traveled from Queensland in a T-model Ford — the first overland car journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria — to survey the Longreach-Darwin section of the route.

Fysh and McGuinness would go on to co-found the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial  Services, or Qantas.

Darwin International Airport said it was well-placed to handle the A380.