Around The World In ... How Long Does That Take?
By Ron Blehm
In 1873 author Jules Verne published his famous book, "Around the World in 80 days." This novel followed the adventures of Londoner Phineas Fogg and his French valet Mr. Passepartout as they took on a £20,000 challenge to travel around the globe in just 80 days. The novel was written at a time when trans-Asian and trans-American rail lines were just being completed and the possibility of world travel actually because plausible. Many adventures and missteps were had along the way (as in any good novel) but the story got me to thinking, "How long would it take, in today's terms, to do the same trip?"
Sure, two or three legs on an A340 or 777 would be pretty quick and flightsim even offers spacecraft that could make the flight in about 80 minutes but I mean really, how long would this take in the real-world (if everything ran on time)? Could I make it all the way around in, say, 80 hours? Several years ago simmer Peter Stark wrote an article about flying the sim around the world in about 600 days and perhaps his piece was a bit of an inspiration to take this on.
Well, I fired up FSX and went to www.flightlookup.com and started entering information. (Please note that flight information and equipment change often, sometimes without notice. What I have written here was the information provided on the day I undertook this project.) In the Jules Verne novel the travelers went from London to Suez but there are no direct flights that I could find to Port Said. So instead I searched for London to Cairo and found Egypt Air flight 778 is a non-stop, departing London at 14:00 and scheduled to arrive to Cairo at 20:45. Equipment is listed as a 773. I loaded in a flight plan, downloaded real weather and pushed back from the gate at 14:02 on Monday January 24th. Once clear I started the engines and requested taxi to the active. During my 15-minute taxi and hold I calculated that to win the prize (Maybe I could win a free years' membership to www.flightsim.com?) I needed to be shut down at a Heathrow gate before 22:00 Thursday night January 27th.
I departed from runway 27L (above, left) and climbed through 4,500 feet before turning to intercept the route (above, right). As I received clearances I climbed on up to a final cruise of 33,000 feet. Sunset came over Italy somewhere (short days in January in the north) and the last half of the flight was in darkness. The schedule showed that my arrival was to be 20:45 and I landed at 20:42 (below, left). After what felt like a long taxi my actual shut-down at the gate was ... 20:45. Amazing!
Next I looked for non-stop flights from Cairo to Mumbai and found Egypt Air flight 968 which leaves at 23:00 and flies a 738. (Seems like a long flight for the 737 family but we'll see) This left me a layover of just over 2 hours. I switched planes, loaded the flight plan, fired up the sim and ... waited for ATC to stop talking to everyone else. It was 23:05 before I started taxi and 23:12 when I started the takeoff roll. (I was number 3 holding for takeoff - above, right). Our cruise level was FL350 and our route took us over Dubai and along the south coast of Iran. Scheduled arrival was to be 07:55 but I showed actual shut-down at 06:11 (below,left). Either that was one heck of a tailwind or Microsoft missed a time zone somewhere! Whatever the case, I only had 1,914 pounds of fuel left in the tank so it was time to land.
The next real-world flight is Indigo Air flight 321 from Mumbai to Kolkata which is scheduled to depart at 09:25 and flies an A320 (above, center). Scheduled arrival is to be 12:10 and I was able to shut down at the gate at 12:48 (above, right). I guess that makes up for arriving early into Mumbai!
From Kolkata Jules Verne's novel took our intrepid travelers to Hong Kong but I was unable to find any non-stop flights. In the novel there was an interruption as they crossed India, a funeral party was crashed and well ... you'll have to read the book. So, in order to make up for that one-day delay in the story I chose a connection via Delhi. Indigo Air 206 departs at 16:40 so I had about 4 hours to get into town and find some non-airline food!
After a "quick" trip into town I was pressed to get back to the airport and ready for departure on time. It was still very hazy as the sun set and I returned to Delhi in darkness (photos above). I did a coupled approach to landing and shut down at the gate at 19:05 Tuesday night - about 4 minutes late.
The next leg is flown by Cathay flight 694 which leaves Delhi at 22:15 and flies an A340 to Hong Kong with scheduled arrival at 05:25 Wednesday AM. I loaded the flight plan and pushed back on-time. Cruise was at 37,000 feet (above, left). We landing on runway 25L in Hong Kong and shut down a little bit early at 05:02 (above, right).
Our next leg, according to the Jules Verne novel is up to Yokohama. Well, for real schedule and flightsim purposes we'll pick a flight to Narita instead. Delta 638 leaves Hong Kong at 08:00 Wednesday AM and flies a 747-400 (photos above). Scheduled arrival was to be at 12:55, we arrived uneventfully and shut down at 13:44 (below, left). Now hang on; An hour early into Mumbai and an hour late into Tokyo?
Anyway, the next leg is an overnighter to San Francisco, departing Tokyo at 17:00 and scheduled to arrive at 09:03. United uses a 747-400 for flight 838 but so that we could see something different I chose to fly a Pan Am 747-200 (above, right). We left in the light rain Wednesday night and arrived 45 minutes late ... Wednesday AM (below, left). At this point, barring any mechanical failures, I was quite sure that I could complete the task in under 80 hours and win the prize!
Our next scheduled flight is United flight 10 leaving SFO at 10:37 AM. This left me just under an hour to get over to the other gate and get the 757 all prepped and ready to go. We pushed back at 10:39 and taxied to the active (above, center). Our route across the US of A took us over Salt Lake and Chicago among other waypoints (above, right). Scheduled arrival to JFK was to be 19:15 but flightsim showed me shut down at 19:53. Now, I was doing Mach 0.81 across the nation with a slight tailwind from the northwest - how on earth was I supposed to be 30 minutes faster?
This lead to my next problem. I had planned on taking British Airways flight 176 but that was to leave JFK at 19:55 and obviously I wouldn't be able to make that kind of a turn-around. I had missed my connecting flight!!
Since I had already downloaded and installed a British Airways 772 I was debating ... just leave "late" or call it "missed" and look for another flight. American flight 132 uses a 777 and leaves at 21:30 and is set to arrive at 09:35 Thursday AM, about 12 hours early for my 80-hour window. Sorry to the AA fans out there but this was my plan - leave at 21:30 but fly the BA livery.
Well, it was a dark and quiet night across the pond, dawn arrived over Ireland and made a straight-in approach to Heathrow's runway 9R shutting down early at 09:02 (photos above). So there you have, Jules Verne fans, using modern equipment and real-world time schedules you CAN fly all the way around the globe in 80 hours.
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