A Boeing 747-400ER (Extended Range) flying Qantas newest route Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney via Brisbane was forced to conduct a 90 minutes unscheduled refueling stop on the island of New Caledonia before resuming its flight. The Australian carrier began to operate its longest Boeing 747-400 route on May 16th 2011 with the QF7 outbound non stop flight from Sydney to Dallas/Ft Worth and the return flight QF8 stopping briefly at Brisbane. At 8,580 mi (13,816 km) long, the QF8 transpacific flight requires about 15 hours of flight to complete. While winds have proved favorable in allowing the QF7 US bound leg to operate optimally, the QF8 return flight which has experienced stronger head winds, has forced the aircraft to burn more fuel and fly longer, compelling the airline to make operational adjustments in accordance with the aircraft operating performance limits. According to Australia’s Herald Sun, strong winds already forced the carrier to leave 3 baggage containers behind on one of the QF8 flight last week due to “unseasonably strong headwinds”. The diversion to Noumea airport in French New Caledonia imposed a two hours delay on the flight which arrived in Brisbane Monday morning and pursued on to Sydney.
According to Boeing aircraft performance manuals, the Rolls Royce RB211-524H8-T powered Boeing 747-400ER operated by Qantas would depart the terminal weighing a maximum of 910,000 lbs (412,000 kg) and fly in excess of 6,200 nm (8,285 miles) while the non-Extended Range version 747-400 weighing in at only 875,000 lbs (397,000 kg) is limited to a 5,200 nm range. On the 8,580 miles long trip, the performance charts value indicating a 295 miles range shortfall. Compounded to the adverse winds encountered at this time of the year, the airline operations would be forced to make adjustments such as sacrificing payload for fuel. The 3 baggage containers left behind in Dallas last week were indicative to that. Ideally the aircraft would be able to operate more comfortably in a 7,000 nm range envelope weighing in at only 520,000 lbs (235,600 kg).