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London to Sydney: 4 things we know about the world’s longest direct flight

Peter Parks /AFP via Getty Images

Qantas jet took off at 6am today and will land around lunchtime local time tomorrow

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The Week Staff

Thursday, November 14, 2019 – 4:32pm

A Qantas jet has taken off on a non-stop flight from London to Sydney in the first trial of a potentially new commercial service.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which can accommodate up to 300 passengers, is carrying only 40 people – including crew – to Sydney on an 11,000-mile flight that should take just over 19 hours.

If the trial proves successful, it would become the longest regular passenger service in the world, says The Telegraph, “surpassing the Singapore Airlines service between Singapore and New York by around 1,550 miles”.

In 1989, Qantas operated a one-off service, using a Boeing 747, between the two cities. That flight carried just 23 people.

Here are five things we know about what will be the world’s longest direct flight.

Qantas teased a more luxurious experience

Qantas’s CEO Alan Joyce originally talked about “installing a gym, bar, underfloor sleeping berths, meeting rooms, as well as child-care facilities” on board the plane, according to Bloomberg.

However, it would seem the plans have been shelved, with Bloomberg reporting that passengers will instead have “space to have a stretch and a drink of water”. The news site adds that rather than enjoying the luxury originally floated by Joyce, passengers will have to settle for more “spartan comfort levels”.

Fighting jet lag is a major challenge

One of the biggest challenges faced by a non-stop 20-hour flight is mitigating against the impact of jet lag. According to Wired, Qantas has worked with the Charles Perkins Centre, a medical research centre in Sydney, to ensure passenger comfort.

The flight will serve a new menu that is aimed at reducing the impact of flying through so many time zones, and Qantas has also worked with an industrial designer to change the cabin lighting.

The lighting emits a “short wavelength light at high intensity”, Wired reports, mimicking daylight at appropriate times, while previous ultra long-haul flights – from London to Perth, for example – have served “hot chocolate drink laced with tryptophan”, an amino acid designed to trigger the body’s sleep cycle.

The plane is staffed by two crews

Two sets of flight crew will be needed to staff the flight, as pilots can’t fly for 20 hours alone.

“Double-crewing” is already used on some flights that last between 14 and 16 hours, with crew rotation and length of shifts something “to be negotiated with the EU as well as aviation authority medics”, says Wired. 

CNN reports that a team from Melbourne’s Monash University will analyse how the pilots’ and crews’ melatonin levels – the hormone that influences sleep cycles – are impacted by the experience. Pilots will also wear a device that tracks brainwave patterns and monitors alertness.

Passengers will see the sun rise twice

The name of the Qantas project – Project Sunrise – is a nod to the two sunrises that passengers on board the flight will see during the journey. In a tweet sent from the flightdeck at 8.30am today, the crew said they had witnessed their first sunrise off the right wing. “Next sunrise will be off the left wing,” they added.

The Telegraph adds that the name is also a reference to the Double Sunrise flights flown by the Australian airline across the Indian Ocean during the Second World War. The flights were launched after Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, meaning that an airlink between Britain and Australia had to be re-established.

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