National News

New York-Sydney non-stop: Qantas record

Qantas has completed the world's longest non-stop flight on a commercial airliner, flying from New York to Sydney, with 49 passengers and crew members on board.

The 16,200-kilometre test flight took 19 hours and 16 minutes, Qantas said on its Twitter account on Sunday.

Qantas QF 7879 departed New York's John F Kennedy Airport on Friday night and landed in Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport on Sunday morning.

Currently, Singapore Airlines runs the world's longest non-stop commercial flight from Singapore to Newark, which takes 18.5 hours.

Australia's flagship carrier repurposed a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for the test flight with maximum fuel and a restricted passenger and baggage load, and no cargo, to allow the aircraft to operate the flight non-stop.

All carbon emissions will be offset with other measures to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Qantas said.

Forty-nine passengers, including Qantas executives, researchers, journalists, and crew members were on the flight, which was used to run a series of experiments to assess health and well-being onboard.

"This is a really significant first for aviation," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said after arriving in Sydney.

"Hopefully, it's a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other."

Joyce said Qantas's regular, direct New York to Sydney flight, with a stopover in Los Angeles, had left three hours before the non-stop flight on Friday but had arrived only a few minutes ahead of them.

Qantas Captain Sean Golding said the flight, which he led with three other pilots, "went really smoothly".

"We had a lot of interest from air traffic controllers as we crossed through different airspace because of the uniqueness of this flight," Golding said.

"We also had a special sign off and welcome home from the control towers in New York and Sydney, which you don't get every day.

"Overall, we're really happy with how the flight went and it's great to have some of the data we need to help assess turning this into regular service," Golding said.

The health researchers monitored the brain activity, melatonin levels and alertness of pilots and cabin crew, as well as six volunteer passengers, and also conducted exercise classes onboard.

As the flight was conducted on Sydney time, passengers were asked to stay awake for the first six hours of the flight to help reduce jetlag and were served spicy food in a brightly-lit cabin.

Later, creamy, carbohydrate-heavy food was served and the lights were dimmed to simulate Sydney night-time before they arrived in the morning. No alcohol was served to the volunteer passengers to study their recovery after a long flight.

The flight came after months of flight planning to determine the optimum flight path, including monitoring daily weather and wind conditions, Qantas said.

It also said their findings on crew well-being will be shared with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority to help inform regulatory requirements associated with ultra-long-haul flights over 20 hours.

Four pilots were on rotation throughout the flight, with two other pilots in the cabin. Together they had experience totalling 67,0000 flight hours.

The flight crew and passengers were welcomed in Sydney by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham.

The flight was a great opportunity to test the economics of ultra-long-haul flights that could allow Australians and visitors to travel more quickly, safely and efficiently, Mr McCormack said.

Senator Birmingham said the non-stop flights halfway around the world would "further enhance the appeal of Australia as a destination of choice".

There will be two more additional research flights before the end of the year.

Qantas is planning to launch commercial flights connecting the Australian east coast cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with New York and London by 2022, which would save passengers up to four hours in total travel time.

Qantas last year started the Perth-London route, the only direct link between Australia and Europe.

© DPA 2019