Qantas completed a record-breaking flight from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport to Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney on October 20, by landing after remaining in the air for 19 hours and 16 minutes with 49 passengers and crew on board. According to a passenger who was part of this flight, “it was as demanding as it sounds”.
The flight was used to run a series of experiments for the assessment of the health and wellbeing of the people on board, data of which will be utilized to provide shape to the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas' ultra long haul flights in the future. The new Boeing 878-9 Dreamliner used in the research had travelled 16,200 kilometres which are 900 kilometres more than the previous longest flight between New York and Singapore.
Shortly after the plane left New York airport, it reportedly became a flying laboratory. The tests which were scheduled to take place included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels, and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers. Moreover, the Cabin lighting along with the in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that were expected to help in the reduction of jetlag, as per the researchers who partnered with the airlines. The Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce called the approach as a significant approach.
Alan Joyce said in the Qantas press release, “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. We know ultra long haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further. The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and wellbeing along the way”.
Because the lightings were up, passengers and were also instructed to not fall asleep for nearly six hours until it was evening in Australia. However, this instruction itself had caused trouble in some of the passengers while some of them were following the pre-planned schedule for eating, drinking exercising, and sleeping.
As per Qantas, the dishes were supposed to energise the passengers who were all in business class. Reportedly, they first savoured poached prawns with chilli and lime followed by Spicy Chinese-style cod with jasmine rice and sesame seeds which was successful in keeping the people on board momentarily awake. The crew was also instructed to keep sleep diaries, iPads which would help them to rate their fatigue, reaction times, workload and stress and defeat the jet lag.
The second meal was served after seven hours into the flight which was carbohydrate-heavy to help the passengers fall asleep. After breakfast being served 17-hours into the flight, the passengers who also included some journalists started feeling fresh and soon it was time for the plan to land on the destination. The passengers also believe that it took discipline to be on a direct flight without any layovers.
The Qantas flight captain, Sean Golding who led the crew of four pilots to operate the service that that overall they are happy with how the flight went. There was also a lot of interest shown by air traffic controllers as the flight crossed through different airspaces because of the uncanny research. Moreover, they also had a special sign off and welcome home. This was also one of the total three flights which are scheduled under Qantas 'Project Sunrise'. The next two will be from London to Sydney and New York to Sydney in November and December respectively.