In this day and age, when air travel has not only become unremarkable and ordinary but also liable to cause intense angst for the environmentally-conscious, an airline needs to be bold if it wants to attract attention and business. And bold is just what Qantas’s latest experiment is: in a world-first, the national carrier will run three “research flights” from London and New York to Sydney in attempt to prove the feasibility of the ultra-long-haul routes.
Running on Qantas’s new 787 Dreamliners, the test flights will gauge the health effects of spending 19 hours non-stop on a plane, something which anyone who has spent even one hour non-stop on a plane will agree sounds a bit much. On the other hand, cruising non-stop from Sydney to London, rather than twiddling your thumbs for six hours in Dubai, has a certain allure to it.
Passengers on the research flights will mostly be Qantas staff, and will be limited to 40 people per flight, to reduce weight and ensure the crafts can make the distance (presumably they’ll make sure they can still make the distance with heavier loads before, you know, putting more people on). Everyone on board will be fitted with monitors to track their health and body clocks to determine the effects of the long trip.
The tests will aid Qantas in its decision whether to add the non-stop flights to its schedule as part of its “Project Sunrise” – if given the go-ahead the routes could take off as soon as 2022. There are obstacles to overcome, though, not least the fact that currently, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority doesn’t allow crews of four pilots to fly for longer than 18 hours.
But hey, we mastered the challenge of heavier-than-air flight: really, since 1903 red tape has been a pretty minor issue by comparison.