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Qantas sets up test flights to study ultra-long-haul
Qantas will operate three Boeing 787-9 to connect London and New York to Sydney. © Boeing

Qantas sets up test flights to study ultra-long-haul

Qantas will operate three ultra-long-haul research flights of approximately 19 hours as part of the Project Sunrise.

The Australian airline Qantas has announced the launch of three ultra-long-haul research flights as part of the ‘Project Sunrise’ to collect new data about health and wellbeing of the passengers and the crew. The aim is to operate commercial flights with no stop between Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne) and London or New York.

During three months, three new Boeing 787-9 will have re-route their delivery flights. Instead of flying empty, the aircraft will fly two routes of the program Project Sunrise: London and New York toward Sydney. This will represent the world’s first flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney and only the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney. 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. Monash University researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights.  Pilots will wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness.  The aim is to establish data to assist in building the optimum work and rest pattern for pilots operating long-haul services.

Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to Qantas that are capable of operating Project Sunrise flights with a viable commercial payload. A final decision on Project Sunrise – which depends on aircraft economics, regulatory approvals and industrial agreements – is expected by the end of December 2019.

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