- Qantas just completed the first nonstop flight between New York and Sydney, Australia, called "Project Sunrise", and Business Insider was aboard.
- The flight – which lasted 19 hours and 16 minutes and covered nearly 10,000 miles – was a research flight, as Qanta's staff and researchers studied how to help passengers and crew stay comfortable and rest on an ultra-long flight.
- Researchers closely monitored pilots and flight attendants and tested a new cabin service flow that was supposed to help minimize jet lag.
- It was a fascinating and enlightening experience and made me feel good for a morning in Sydney. Read on to see what it was like to be on board this first test flight.
- Visit Business Insider's website for more stories.
I just spent a day in the air.
No, not just a day trip, traveling to airports, dealing with buses and terminals and making connections. But almost a full day in a squeezed metal tube that alternates between about 34,000 and 42,000 feet above the earth ̵
Australian airline Qantas ran a test flight for its "Project Sunrise" initiative – a program to launch regular commercial traffic from Sydney to New York and Sydney to London.
The flights, approximately 9,900 and 10,500 nautical miles respectively, represent the longest – and currently the longest, temporal – flights directly today. While a direct flight from London to Sydney was achieved once, 30 years ago, it hardly counts – it flew with a completely empty 747 that had no seats, and it barely had enough fuel to do so. The New York-Sydney route has never been made without a stop in Los Angeles.
When it landed, the flight, named QF7879, became the longest commercial flight in the world and surpassed Singapore Airlines regular commercial service between Singapore and New York, although next month's test of London-Sydney flights will surpass this.
Aircraft and airlines are more technologically advanced now than ever before, with better fuel efficiency, longer intervals and computer-aided logistical planning. But as some flights get longer, the question is whether passengers and flight crews can tolerate more hours in the air without getting up to break things up.
Qantas used this flight – and plans to do the same for the London route – to investigate how pilots, cabin crew and passengers can handle the long flight time. In particular, data collected from the surveillance of the pilots and flight attendants will be used to help Qantas make a case for Australian aviation regulators that it is safe to have crew work in shifts for potentially 20 hours or more.
The airline also tested a redesigned cabin service designed to help passengers minimize the effects of jet lag as they pass 15 time zones, and reduce the size by which an extremely long-haul flight can exacerbate these symptoms. Cabin lighting, meal service and dining options are tailored to help passengers and crew feel more awake or more attuned to the night.
This flight also doubled as a delivery of a new Boeing 787-9, from Boeing's Seattle facility. There were only 40 passengers and 10 crew, including four pilots on duty. Passengers included several Qantas flyers that participated in the research study, Qantas staff, researchers and staff, including this reporter.
The flight with full load of passengers and cargo is not possible at the moment – the heavier load would reduce the aircraft's fuel area.
Two aircraft under development from Airbus and Boeing could fly these routes. Qantas has said that it will decide by the end of 2019 which one will be used and that it expects to start commercial service as early as 2023, said Alan Joyce, Qanta's CEO. The airline had previously hoped to launch the service in 2022.
Due to the low passenger load, each person was assigned a business class place that could be converted into a bed. Passengers were also encouraged to spend some time in the bus cab to balance the plane.
Although the flight would obviously be a different experience within coaches with a full plane, Qanta's CEO Alan Joyce discussed several options to make an ultra-long-haul bus ride more comfortable.
Regardless, the nearly 20 hour business class hike, with the redesigned cabin service, was a strangely different experience compared to other long-haul flights I have moved in premium cabins, including first and business class.
Apart from that, it was truly a unique experience. After all, not every flight you see an airline manager doing caliber in his pajamas.
Although it is Business Insider's policy not to accept free travel, we were unable to pay for the New York-to-Sydney trip because it was classified as a "ferry flight", for which the US Department of Transportation's regulations prevent the airline from accepting any money for prices. Business Insider paid for the return flight with the airline.
From takeoff to landing, plus before and after, read on to see what 19-hour and 16-minute flights were.