NEW DELHI: Flying Delhi to San Francisco (SFO) over the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic last week earned Air India the record of operating the world’s longest non-stop flight.
The Pacific route is almost 1,400km longer than the Atlantic one, and the flight covered 15,300 kilometres in 14.5 hours. Despite the route being longer, the flight turned out to be almost two hours shorter due to tailwinds that blow in the same direction as an aircraft and thus make it go faster.
“The Earth rotates from west to east, and winds flow in that direction too. Flying west means facing strong headwinds (that decreases an aircraft’s actual ground speed), and flying east means getting strong tailwinds, which does the opposite,” said a senior Air India official.
“While taking the (western) Atlantic route to SFO, we usually face headwinds of 24kmph. This means that if our aircraft is doing 800kmph, its actual ground speed is 776kmph. Taking the (eastern) Pacific route will mean getting tailwinds of 138kmph, which make the aircraft have an actual ground speed of 938kmph.”
At 13,900km, the Atlantic route of Air India’s Delhi-SFO nonstop flight made it the world’s second-longest after Emirates’ Dubai-Auckland (14,120km). But it’s Pacific route has made it the world’s longest nonstop flight.
The four pilots, captains Rajneesh Sharma, Gautam Verma, MA Khan and SM Palekar, and the 10 cabin crew members who operated the first Delhi-SFO flight over the Pacific are ecstatic at setting this record.
“The aircraft took off from Delhi at 4am on Sunday (October 16) morning. We were in that date till Japan. After that, we crossed the international date line and were in October 15. By the time we landed in San Francisco, it was 6.30am on October 16 (local time in SFO),” said one of the pilots.
The Air India Delhi-SFO-Delhi flight now does a round trip of the world as it flies back to India over the Atlantic to get tailwinds on both the outbound and inbound flights. The Boeing-777 200 long range used by Air India on this route, on an average, burns 9,600 litres of fuel for each hour of flying. A shorter flying time on the Delhi-SFO route — from an hour in summer to three hours (in winter) — would mean huge fuel savings for the airline.
Although Air India now holds the record for the longest flight, in two years, Singapore Airlines plans to break the record by flying from Singapore to New York, covering 16,500km in 19 hours.
This article originally appeared on Times of India