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Qantas completes “double sunrise” test flight from London to Sydney

Qantas Airways Ltd on Friday (November 15) completed a near 20-hour non-stop research flight from London to Sydney as it considers whether to order planes for what would be the world’s longest-ever commercial route, witnessing two sunrises. 

“So our intention is to have a bigger seat pitch in economy than we’ve ever had before, have dedicated stretching areas in economy, so it is a very designed product for long-haul travel like Sydney-London and Sydney to New York,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told Reuters on board the flight, which followed a similar one from New York to Sydney last month. 

The plane on the London-Sydney research flight, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, carried 50 passengers and had fuel remaining for roughly another 1 hour 45 minutes of flight time when it landed. 

Six people in business class wore devices that will allow researchers to analyse food and beverage intake, sleep patterns, lighting, physical activity and inflight entertainment to assess the impact on health and wellbeing. Pilots also wore EEG (electroencephalogram) to monitor alertness and brain wave patterns. 

It landed almost 100 years to the day from when the first London to Australia flight operated, taking 28 days before landing in Darwin.

The airline needs to get pilots to agree on contract terms and a sign-off from Australia’s aviation regulator in order to order planes this year to launch the flights by 2023.

Captain Helen Trenerry, who led the flight, said research data including activity monitoring, sleep diaries, cognitive testing and monitoring of melatonin levels would help determine whether the crew mix of one captain, one first officer and two second officers used on the flight was appropriate or if more experience was needed.

Qantas has been considering an order for either an ultra-long range version of Airbus SE’s A350-1000 or the Boeing Co, although the latter plane’s entry into service has been delayed and so Boeing has put together an alternative offer to deal with that. If Qantas goes ahead, the route would be launched in 2023.

(Production: Jill Gralow)

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