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One plane’s 21-hour journey from Costa Rica to Australia

March 1, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the aviation industry.

Anyone who has recently flown through Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport can attest to that: Pretty much every free inch of the ramp is filled with grounded commercial planes.

Until recently, one of them was N998QQ, an Embraer E190 that had flown for Copa Airlines until the coronavirus pandemic led it to be withdrawn from service on March 19, 2020.

It remained in storage at SJO in Costa Rica for nearly a year before it was acquired by Alliance Airlines, a carrier based in Brisbane, Australia. The plane had to be delivered from Costa Rica to its new home, but the Embraer E190 is a short- to medium-range jet — it can’t make the flight nonstop.

So, how does an E190 fly from Costa Rica to Australia? As One Mile at a Time chronicled, the plane made the 10,000 miles-plus journey in four lengthy segments:

  • The plane flew the ~2,600 mile route from Alajuela, Costa Rica, to San Diego, California, in a flight time of just under 5 hours.
  • The plane flew the ~2,600 mile route from San Diego to Honolulu in a flight time of 5 hours and 19 minutes.
  • The plane flew the ~2,300 mile route from Honolulu to the Marshall Islands, and then the ~2,700 mile route from the Marshall Islands to Brisbane in a combined flight time of 11 hours and 28 minutes.

All told, the plane spent nearly 22 hours in the air.

Photo: One Mile at a Time

Copa posted a fourth-quarter loss of $169 million in 2020 and operated just 27% of the capacity compared to 2019. The other major Latin American airline, Avianca, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2020.

As the aviation industry begins an anticipated recovery in 2021, we may see more unique flights like that of N998QQ.

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