Qantas Airways is determined to launch the longest commercial aviation flights over the next decade. Before embarking on this venture, however, the company wants to research how crew and passengers will respond when facing ultra long range flights of up to 19 hours aboard aircraft.
The company’s initiative is part of the Project Sunrise, which aims to operate scheduled, nonstop flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.
During October, November and December, the company will operate test flights using its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner jet that will have limited capacity to simulate long-haul routes. Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew, to minimize weight and provide the fuel range needed to cover the vast distances.
The people aboard these flights, mostly Qantas employees, will be equipped with special devices to analyze their behavior and at different stages of the flight will be subjected to specific experiences.
As the company explains, the flights will be accompanied by “scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Center will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”
Pilots will use an electroencephalogram device that tracks brainwave patterns and monitors alertness. According to the company, the objective is to establish data to assist in the creation of work schedules on board the aircraft and to determine the times when crew members must stop to rest during flights with more than 19 hours.
Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, said test flights will give experts the opportunity to do real-time research that will translate into health and wellness 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.”
“For customers, the key will be minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximizing rest during their downtime on these flights,” explained Joyce.
Data collected on flights will be shared with the Australian Civil Aviation Agency to help inform regulatory requirements associated with long-haul flights.
“Flying non-stop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right,” said the Australian company’s CEO.
Qantas has not yet determined which aircraft to choose to fulfill the Sunrise project routes. Airbus and Boeing are vying for the order with new variants of the A350 and 777 that are still under development and are expected to hit the market in the next decade.