Some people love to fly. Others, can take it or leave it while still appreciating the convenience, and others just end up hating the whole experience. However, if you're a hardened veteran of flying the friendly skies and think you can handle whatever the airlines throw at you, do you think you're prepared to spend 19-hours on a nonstop flight between New York and Sydney?
That's the question Qantas, Australia's flag carrier, is trying to answer after they completed the first-ever nonstop flight from JFK to Sydney Australia in a record-breaking 19-hour and 15-minute flight. The effort was part of the company's "Project Sunrise," to "conduct scientific research on passengers and crew on an ultra-long haul flight, with the aim of increasing health and wellness, minimizing jetlag and identifying optimum crew rest and work periods."
Sunday's flight was conducted using one of the company's brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, just delivered straight off the assembly line near Seattle. It's the first of three research flights that are being carried out by the company's ongoing effort to launch commercial flights that connect the east coast of Australia to New York and London.
Only 50 passengers and crew were on the flight, with each of them wearing testing equipment during the flight. Pilots were fitted with an electroencephalogram (EEG) device that measured their brainwave activity so researchers could determine how alert each pilot was to help predict better rest patterns for future flights. Four pilots were on rotation throughout the flight with two additional pilots in the cabin, who flew the 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to New York.
Incredibly, nearly half of the weight of the aircraft when taking off from JFK on Friday, was due to the plane's fuel load. According to Qantas, the aircraft took off with a maximum fuel load of approximately 222,900 pounds (101,000 kg). The company projected that would leave the aircraft with around 6,000 kg of fuel by the time they reached Sydney - translating into about 90 minutes of flight time.
“We know ultra long haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said. "The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and well-being along the way."
Joyce called the record-breaking flight a "significant first for aviation."
There are two more survey flights scheduled for Qantas, later this year. If the company decides to move forward with the long-haul flights, they hope to begin flying the New York and London routes by 2023.
Photo by James D Morgan/Qantas.