‘Slowest game of ping pong’: Seven empty Dreamliners flown back to the US a day after being delivered to Qatar

Simon Calder, Cathy Adams
Seven Qatar Airways aircraft were flown back to the US a day after being delivered to Doha: Flight Radar 24
Seven Qatar Airways aircraft were flown back to the US a day after being delivered to Doha: Flight Radar 24

Seven Qatar Airways planes with no passengers flew back to the US a day after they’d been flown from Seattle to Doha.

The seven Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft were delivered to the Qatar national carrier from Everett, Washington, where the aircraft are built.

However, just a day after delivery, the fleet then flew back across the Atlantic from capital Doha to Victorville, California.

This location, northwest of Los Angeles, is known mainly as an “aircraft boneyard”. Many planes, including dozens of Boeing 737 Max jets, are stored there.

But Victorville’s Southern California Logistics Airport is also the home for a Boeing operation where the jets will be made ready for commercial services.

The distance between Everett and Victorville is 953 miles. Instead, these seven aircraft flew a distance of 15,630 miles each in just two days. The Independent calculates that each flew 16 times further than necessary and burnt at least 150 tons of fuel on the ferry flights.

(Great Circle Mapper)
(Great Circle Mapper)

Plane tracking site Flight Radar 24 called the seven return transatlantic flights “the slowest game of ping pong”.

They’re not the first aircraft to fly an absurd flight path.

Last month, a Boeing 747 flew what is believed to be the shortest flight on the jet – just four miles.

British Airways flew a 25-year-old Jumbo jet, also known as the Queen of the Skies, from Cardiff to St Athan. This is the location of the engineering base where the aircraft was decommissioned.

Flight BA9172 was not a commercial flight. There were no passengers aboard on the jet, registration G-CIVG, which was delivered in April 1995.

The average speed for the 21-minute point-to-point journey was only 11.4mph, because the aircraft had to fly a loop from Cardiff airport around the towns of Barry and Penarth before landing, according to flight tracking data.

Also last month, Qatar Airways operated a scheduled flight between two cities that took just nine minutes.

The Doha-based airline flew a cargo flight between Maastricht in the Netherlands and Liège, Belgium, which are just 24 miles apart.

On 3 November, a Boeing 777 took off from Maastricht for Liège, according to tracking data from Flight Radar. The aircraft then flew on to Mexico City.

The reason was that a client in Maastricht wanted some cargo dropped off there instead.

The world’s shortest flight is between the Orkney isles of Westray and Papa Westray. Loganair services are scheduled to take two minutes to cover the two miles.

The Independent has contacted Qatar Airways for comment.

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