It’s 1989 and a Boeing 747-438 – what most of us call a jumbo jet – rumbles down Runway 28 Right at London’s Heathrow Airport, picking up speed until it’s able to take off. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about that since Boeing 747s have already been in service for nearly 20 years. But this is no ordinary flight. In fact, it’s a highly secret test of the airliner’s capabilities.
The senior pilot on the Qantas flight, Captain David Massy-Green, has a very special mission. He plans to fly the plane, named City of Canberra, non-stop to Sydney, Australia – a distance of some 10,500 miles. There’s just one problem with that. The 747’s official range is not much more than 9,000 miles. So Massey-Green is trying to achieve a theoretical impossibility.