Qantas Airlines completed a record commercial flight on Sunday morning when one of its Boeing 787-9s landed in Sydney at 7:42 am Local time after a continuous trip from New York. The total journey took 19 hours and 15 minutes.
The exploration flight, the first time the two cities were connected by air in one go, is part of Project Sunrise, Qantas's effort to push the boundaries of commercial flights. Although the Australian airline is well aware of long-haul routes, connecting Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London so far remains beyond the scope of the airline.
Flight 7879 left for New York on Friday night, loaded with 222,900 pounds of fuel to make the trip. Because the 787-9 does not have the scope to complete the 10,000-mile journey with a full load of passengers, the flight carries only 50 passengers and crew and has no cargo.
As part of Project Sunrise's goal of limiting delays and ensuring the health of passengers and crew in long-haul flights, several medical experts were on board to monitor travelers' sleep patterns and food and drink consumption. The four-member, rotating crew also carried EEG (brain-wave) monitors to monitor brain waves and alertness.
If Qantas decides to continue new flights and gain the necessary regulatory approval, it hopes to begin flying to New York and London by 2023, the airline writes. But Qantas still has to clear a critical hurdle before it can do so: It needs an airplane that can make any full-load route. Both the new Airbus A350-1000 and the still flying Boeing 777X may have the necessary potential, but the airline has not yet made any orders.
Qantas operates a 17-hour flight from Perth to London nonstop, using 787s from 2016, but flights to New York and London would become the longest flights in the world, at about 19 hours each. Travelers in New York will save a four-hour stop in Los Angeles, while passengers in London will save a connection in Singapore.