SYDNEY – A test flight by Australian flag carrier Qantas landed in Sydney on Sunday after completing a record non-stop run of 19 hours and 16 minutes from New York City.
The world’s longest direct flight intended to study its impact on passengers’ health with the help of researchers from the University of Sydney.
“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,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement after landing in the eastern Australian city.
The flight, which touched down at 7:16 am local time (2016 GMT) and covered a total distance of 16,200 kilometers (around 10,000 miles), was the first of three trials with the new Boeing 787-9s for the planned Qantas routes that will link Sydney to London and New York with no layovers.
“What’s already clear is how much time you can save. Our regular, one-stop New York to Sydney service (QF12) took off three hours before our direct flight but we arrived a few minutes ahead of it, meaning we saved a significant amount of total travel time by not having to stop,” Joyce added.
Around 50 people were on board the pioneering plane, including six volunteers who followed a strict plan regulating their sleep, physical exercise and food-and-drink intake in a bid to ward off jet lag. They were hooked up to equipment monitoring their vital signs throughout the entire voyage.
The airborne study – the first of its kind – was led by University of Sydney experts and members of the Australian government’s Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity.
“Night flights usually start with dinner and then lights off. For this flight, we started with lunch and kept the lights on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at our destination. It means you start reducing the jet lag straight away,” Joyce explained.
Qantas plans to operate direct flights to New York and London from the eastern Australian coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane starting in 2022.
Since 2018, the airline has already been offering a 17-hour direct flight between Perth and London and used it to analyze the impact of long-haul journeys on passengers and crew members.
The world’s longest flight is currently operated by Singapore Airlines, covering the route between the Southeast Asian city-state and Newark, New Jersey (United States) in 18 hours and 30 minutes.