The first non-stop commercial airline flight from New York to Sydney landed after 19 hours 16 minutes in the air. A total of 49 passengers and crew were on the flight, which was used to run a series of experiments to assess health and well-being onboard. Data from these experiments will be used help shape the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas’ ultra-long haul flights in future, including Project Sunrise.
Tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers.
Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jetlag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas.
This is a really significant first for aviation. Hopefully, it’s a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other. We know ultra long haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way.—Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce
Four pilots operated the service. Two more research flights are planned as part of the Project Sunrise evaluations: London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December. The three flights over three months will use new Boeing 787-9s.
Emissions from all research flights will be fully offset. A decision on Project Sunrise is expected by the end of the year.
No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York to Australia. Qantas has once flown non-stop from London to Sydney in 1989 to mark the entry into service of the Boeing 747-400. That flight had a total of 23 people on board and minimal internal fit-out in order to provide the range. The aircraft, registered VH-OJA, was donated by Qantas in 2017 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society near Wollongong, New South Wales.