A non-stop Qantas New York to Sydney flight, deemed as the world’s longest with nearly 20 hours in the air without layovers, took off on Friday.
The flight, which was scheduled to depart New York at 9 pm from the American megalopolis, is the first of three planned test flights involving the new Boeing 757-9s aircraft which are set to cover new direct routes between Sydney and, London and New York.
The flight is expected to last some 19 hours-and-a-half, covering a distance of about 17,000 km.
The planes will become mobile research labs, where six volunteer passengers – out of a total of 50, including crew members – will be subjected to experiments seeking to better understand ways to reduce the impact of jet lag.
The volunteers are expected to follow a rigorous plan to modulate their sleep, food and drink intake and physical movements.
The study, which is the first of its kind in the world, will be conducted by scientists from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre as well as researchers from the government’s Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, who will monitor the sleep cycles and alertness levels of the pilots and cabin crew.
According to the airline, four pilots and six members of the crew will be involved in the data collection by wearing activity monitors and completing sleep diaries, as well as filling out rest and alertness logs. Pilots will also provide researchers with urine samples from before, during and after the flight, which will track melatonin levels to establish individual body clock timing.
In addition, cameras will be mounted in the cockpit for the flight duration to record alertness cues and operational activities.
At present, the world’s longest direct flight is offered by Singapore Airlines, which links the city-state with Newark, New Jersey in 18.5 hours.