Qantas has unveiled plans to operate three ultra
long-haul research flights to gather new data about inflight
passenger and crew health and wellbeing.
The flights form part of planning for Project
Sunrise – Qantas’ goal to operate regular, non-stop commercial
flights from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and
Melbourne) to London and New York.
The three flights over three months will use new
Boeing 787-9s and re-route their planned delivery flights. Instead
of flying empty from Seattle to Australia, the aircraft will
simulate two Project Sunrise routes – London and New York to
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.
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.
researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels
before, during and after the flights. Pilots will also 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.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce
said the flights will give medical experts the chance to do
real-time research that will translate into health and wellbeing
“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 minimising 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 maximise rest during their down time on these 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. No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before
and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design,
inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise.
We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing
long-haul flights,” Mr Joyce said.
already conducted data on passenger sleep strategies on its direct
Perth–London service, and some of these initial findings will be
assessed further as part of these dedicated research flights.
Customer feedback on food choices, separate stretching and
wellbeing zones and entertainment options will also be tested.
Findings on crew wellbeing data will be shared
with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to help inform regulatory
requirements associated with ultra-long haul flights.
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.
Mr Joyce added, “There’s
plenty of enthusiasm for Sunrise, but it’s not a foregone
conclusion. This is ultimately a business decision and the
economics have to stack up.”
Singapore Airlines currently operates the
world's longest flight. The flight between Singapore and New York
takes approximately 18 hours and 25 minutes.
Project Sunrise Research
Flights - Fast Facts
- Non-stop flights from New
York and London to Sydney will take around 19 hours each, subject
to wind and weather conditions. The data will be used to inform
all Sunrise flight planning, including from Brisbane and
- The aircraft will position from Boeing’s
factory in Seattle, where they will be collected off the
production line by Qantas pilots, and flown to their starting
points of New York (for two of the flights) and London (for one
flight). Cabins will be fully fitted out and otherwise ready to
enter normal commercial service.
- The flights will take
place in October, November and December, in-line with scheduled
aircraft deliveries from Boeing.
- Flights will have up to
40 people (including crew) on board and a minimum of luggage and
catering to extend the range of 787-9.
- Other than crew,
those in the cabin will mostly be Qantas employees taking part in
testing. No seats will be sold as these flights are for research
- After the flights, each aircraft will
enter regular service with Qantas International – with just a few
extra miles on the clock.
- Qantas operates the largest
airline carbon offset scheme in the world. This same program will
be used to offset all the carbon emissions from these three
- No commercial airline has ever flown direct from
New York to Australia. Qantas has once flown non-stop from London
to Sydney in 1989 to mark the entry into service of the Boeing
747-400. That flight had a total of 23 people on board and minimal
internal fit- out in order to provide the range. The aircraft,
registered VH-OJA, was donated by Qantas in 2017 to the Historical
Aircraft Restoration Society near Wollongong, New South Wales.