On Sunday morning, the longest non-stop passenger flight arrived in Australia after covering more than 19 hours flight starting its journey from New York. Qantas is considering it as a milestone journey that may help into commercial success.
As planned by the airline this year, Qantas flight QF7879 took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly direct from New York to Sydney in the first of three “ultra-long-haul” journeys. The national flag carrier is operating the test flights, including one from London to Sydney, as it weights a rollout of regular services on marathon routes from the United States and Britain to Australia.
To provide the plane sufficient fuel range to travel more than 16,000 kilometers (9,500 miles) without re-fuelling and to minimize the weight on board, there were just 49 people on board on the Boeing 787-9.
Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas called it “a really historic moment” for both the airline and world aviation. After arriving in Sydney he told reporters, “This is the first of three test flights that’s going to come up with recommendations about how we manage pilot fatigue (and) how we actually manage passenger jetlag.”
“After 19 hours on this flight, I think we’ve gotten this right. It feels like we’ve been on a flight a lot shorter than that,” he added.
Qantas in association with two Australian universities monitored how jetlag harmed the health of passengers as well as crew members as they crossed multiple time zones. The passengers, after boarding the flight set their watches to Sydney time and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia with lighting, exercise, caffeine and a spicy meal.
The passengers were served a high-carbohydrate meal, after six hours. They were advised to avoid screens and lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep through the night. According to a researcher from Sydney University, professor Marie Carroll, the innovative approach would help to minimize the jetlag.
“I expect that they will have a normal day today and a normal night’s sleep tonight,” she said. She further stated that she felt “amazingly good” considering the flight time.
“It’s all an experiment to see if airlines can adjust their schedule of food, beverages, exercise, and lighting to be in sync with the destination time,” she added.
The four pilots present on board were alternated between flying duties. They wore devices that tracked their brain waves and alertness. The Australian and International Pilots Association, which represents Qantas pilots were worried about whether pilots will get enough quality rest during ultra-long-range flights to maintain peak performance.
According to the airlines, the test journeys are just one side of the work and it is doing to ensure the flights are operated safely. Last year, the airline launched the direct service from the western Australian city of Perth to London, with the 17-hour journey one of the longest passenger flights in the world.