A few days ago, the world’s longest flight landed in Sydney, Australia. Flight QF7879 left New York 19 hours and 16 minutes earlier. The flight was called “Project Sunrise” and was a test flight by Qantas.
There has been a demand for longer nonstop flights for years, however, concerns over effects from prolonged flights have limited attempts. This test flight was done to understand more about the effects on the human body after an extended flight.
To ensure that the plane could make its journey with a single tank of fuel, the plane had to be kept light. Only 49 passengers were aboard and each had restrictions placed on the weight of the luggage they could bring along.
Among the 50 passengers were six pilots, six crew members, reporters, frequent flyers (who volunteered to be “guinea pigs”), and the airline’s CEO. The volunteer passengers were monitored in several ways. Researchers were particularly interested in how the long flight would affect passengers’ blood pressure, brain activity, mood, and overall feelings of jetlag.
During the flight, passengers were encouraged to stay awake and sleep at certain times. They were fed meals that supported this suggested regiment. The plane’s lighting was also set to support the sleep schedule. When the passengers were meant to be sleeping, the plane was lit with warm tones. While they were meant to be awake, the plane was lit with blue tones.
Passengers on the flight were also encouraged to stretch and participate in guided meditations are particular times. These suggestions were designed to limit the effects of jetlag but were not mandatory.
Reports from passengers aboard the flight have been coming in online. A few people have said they felt better after this 19-hour direct flight than they have after flying the same distance previously with stops along the way.
So, the question is: will extended flights become commonplace in the next few years?
Qantas would like to start commercial flights like this trial one as soon as 2022, however, more test flights like “Project Sunrise” will be conducted before extended nonstop flights are available to the public. There are many factors that need to be considered and studied. But as we understand more about how these flights affect the human body, we will likely develop more ways to make these trips manageable.