Flying Delhi to San Francisco (SFO) over the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic, as it had done till last week, has earned Air India the record of operating the world's longest nonstop flight.
The Pacific route is almost 1,400 km longer than the Atlantic one, and the flight covered 15,300 kilometres in 14.5 hours. Despite the route being longer, the flight took almost two hours less thanks to tailwinds -winds blowing in the same direction as an aircraft and thus making 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 AI official.
“While taking the (western) Atlantic route to SFO, we usually face headwinds of 24 kmph. If our aircraft is doing 800 kmph, its actual ground speed is 776 kmph. Taking the (eastern) Pacific route will mean getting tailwinds of 138 kmph, which make the aircraft have an actual ground speed of 938 kmph,“ the official added. At 13,900 km, the Atlantic route of AI's Delhi-SFO nonstop made it the second longest flight of the world after Emirates' Dubai-Auckland (14,120 km). Now, AI's Pacific route will remain the world's longest nonstop for two year still Singapore Airlines launches the mother of all direct flights -Singapore-New York -which will cover 16,500 km in 19 hours. 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 AI 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 AI on this route, on an average, burns 9,600 litres of fuel for each hour of flying. A shorter flying time to SFO from an hour (in summer) to up to three hours (in winter)would mean huge fuel savings for the airline.
In summer, flying time to SFO over Pacific will be 16 hours -an hour less than the Atlantic route. And in winter, the difference will be as high as up to three hours between the two routes.