Longest non-stop flight to take off from New York to Sydney

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SYDNEY, Oct 18, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – A plane and its passengers are set to
test the mental and physical limits of long-haul aviation when Qantas
operates the first direct flight by a commercial airline from New York to
Sydney this weekend.

In the first of three “ultra long-haul” test flights planned by Australia’s
national flag carrier this year, researchers will monitor the effects on
passengers of the 19-hour non-stop journey.

Up to 40 passengers and crew — most of them Qantas employees — will be on
board the Boeing 787-9 when it departs New York on Friday. The plane is
scheduled to arrive Down Under Sunday morning.

Passenger numbers have been restricted to minimise the weight on board and
give the plane sufficient fuel range to travel approximately 16,000
kilometres (about 9,500 miles) without re-fuelling, heading west over the
Pacific.

No other airline has ever achieved the feat, which Qantas CEO Alan Joyce
has called the “final frontier in aviation”.

Scientists from two Australian universities will be on board to monitor
passengers’ sleep patterns, melatonin levels, and food consumption.

Pilots will also wear a device that tracks their brain waves and alertness.

With a 15-hour time difference between New York and Sydney, the impact of
jetlag will be closely watched.

“We know from the basic science of circadian rhythms that a bigger time
difference between departure and arrival locations, and travelling east
rather than west, tends to mean people feel more jetlag,” University of
Sydney professor Stephen Simpson told AFP.

“But people seem to be wildly different when it comes to the experience of
jetlag — and we need more research on what contributes to jetlag and travel
fatigue, so we can try and reduce the impact of long-haul flights.”

Qantas last year introduced the first direct service from the western
Australian city of Perth to London, with the 17-hour journey one of the
longest passenger flights in the world.

As well as the New York-Sydney route, Qantas will test a service from
London to Sydney in the coming months.

The airline is considering launching commercial services on the marathon
routes — if the economics stack up.

A decision will be made on the validity of the flights at the end of the
year. Joyce has said it is “ultimately a business decision”.

– Pilots concerned –

Another hurdle could come from within the organisation.

Qantas pilots have raised concerns about the impact of ultra long-range
flying on safety standards.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), which
represents Qantas pilots, said the exploratory flights “will produce a
limited set of data that will not adequately replicate real-world flying
conditions”.

AIPA safety director Shane Loney has called for a “scientific long-term
study” into the impacts on crew.

“Pilots are concerned about being able to get enough quality rest during
ultra long-range flights to maintain peak performance and we believe
significant caution should be exercised in the initial operations to make
sure there are no unintended consequences,” he said.

A Qantas spokesperson said the test flights are “just one part of the work
we are doing to assess how to operate these flights safely”.

Both Airbus and Boeing have pitched aircraft for the Qantas ultra long-haul
routes. Joyce has said it is not a “foregone conclusion” which company will
be chosen.

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