This week Qantas is to fly three test flights on its longest routes yet, to determine the feasibility of turning them into scheduled services in the coming years.
The routes are Sydney to New York JFK, and Sydney to London. Both are non-stop.
These tests have been dubbed ‘Project Sunrise’ and will use brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft – the same as already used on the non-stop Perth to London route, which is presently the carrier’s longest.
Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew, in order to minimise weight and give the necessary fuel range. Carbon emissions from the flights will be fully offset.
The on-board research is being designed in partnership with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Monash University in conjunction with CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity.
People in the cabin – mostly Qantas employees – will be fitted with wearable technology devices and take part in specific experiences at varying stages of the approximately 19 hour flights. Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.
30 years ago the airline flew a non-stop London to Sydney flight using a Boeing 747-400. The 17,000km journey took over 20 hours to complete.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the flights will give medical experts the chance to do real-time research that will translate into health and wellbeing benefits.
“Ultra-long haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them.”
Qantas is assessing both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X to work on the Project Sunrise routes in the future.