Qantas may soon get the title for running the world’s longest non-stop flight – a total of 10,200 miles – between the U.S. and Australia. The flight would edge out current frontrunner, Singapore Airlines, which offers an 18.5-hour non-stop flight between EWR and SIN that clocks in a 9,534 miles.
The flight, that took off this weekend from New York JFK ran 19 hours and 16 minutes – although it carried only 50 passengers as a test flight and did not contain cargo.
The flight used a Boeing 787-9 aircraft, but the carrier, with the full weight of passengers, cargo and fuel, was not designed for the job.
The new aircraft will enter normal commercial service with Qantas but for the long-haul job, the A350 and 777X are throwing hats into the ring in the test research in progress that Qantas is calling Project Sunrise. In these tests, which will see a test run of the 10,563-mile non-stop London to Sydney route in November and then another JFK-SYD test in December, researchers are not only watching the performance of aircraft but also the health of pilots and passengers.
Tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers.
“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,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. “We know ultra-long 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.”
Four pilots will be on rotation throughout the flight. Two additional pilots will be in the cabin, having flown the aircraft to New York. Flight will travel at 85% the speed of sound which is around 577 miles per hour. Cruising altitude will start at 36,000 feet for the first few hours and then as the aircraft weight reduces with fuel burn, the cruising altitude will increase to 40,000 feet.
The research is part of a greater vision by Qantas to launch commercial flights between the east coast of Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and New York and London. The direct flights would save passengers up to four hours in total travel time and follow the successful 17-hour, 9,000-mile Perth-London route, which started in March 2018 and is the only non-stop link between Australia and Europe.
If all goes well, the new long-haul route is looking at a 2022/23 launch window.