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Qantas nonstop flight from London to Sydney: What have we learned



Sydney (CNN) – It feels like the world has just gotten smaller. The flight, operated by Australian airline Qantas, has just made a record-breaking voyage from London to Sydney by nonstop, spending 19 hours and 19 minutes in the air and opening the possibility of planned direct flights between some of the farthest corners of the planet.

CNN was among a handful of journalists aboard this research flight, during which scientists collected data on passenger and crew well-being and biometrics. Qantas hopes the data collected from its Project Sunrise experiments will persuade Australian aviation regulators to allow it to operate so-called ultra-long flights of 22 hours on this and other routes.

While the flight of the QF7879 generates some headlines, it also offers some ideas on how the world of air travel is and what it has to offer.

Here are some things we learned:

The future is probably a very long way

  qantas Flight Test-2

Qantas Flight QF7879 landing at Sydney Airport after 19 hours and 19 minutes in the air.

James D Morgan / Qantas

Singapore to New York, Doha to Auckland, Perth to London. The three longest flights in the world run more than 17 hours – and CNN's Richard Quest is on all of them.

Every time one of these ultra-long flights starts, one wonders if it's worth it? Long-haul flights have become economically viable with the arrival of new lighter, more economical aircraft such as the A350 and 787 Dreamliner.

Before taking the stage, planes such as the A340-500 and 777LR could have traveled the distance but were heavy and thirsty for comparison.

787 yields 20% of fuel on site, saving compared to previous 747s, which are being phased out. This gives airlines a lot more margin to earn money on long flights where fuel represents a higher percentage of costs. These profit margins will act as a powerful incentive for carriers to focus on longer flights as a growth zone.

The number of these new flights shows how popular they are. Airlines around the world offer routine flights lasting 15 hours and that will continue.

And you will have to pay more for it

  Qantas details

Business class aboard a Qantas record flight.

James D Morgan / Qantas

If the London to Sydney or London to New York routes reach 2022 or 2023 in accordance with the Qantas schedule, do not expect to receive any discounted tickets.

If the apparent success of the airline's direct service connecting the city of Perth from Western Australia to London is continuously offered, the tickets will be sold at retail prices.

Qantas says the London-Perth route is usually sold at 20-30% higher fares than its other airline tickets. And even at this price point, the airline says that it is currently the most popular route to operate, with 95% occupancy – much higher than the usual 75%. It's not just business travelers. The airline says the route is popular with families who want to pay extra to avoid the hassle of negotiating exhausted and exhausted children through layoffs.

But there is probably still room for landing

Airlines may offer ultra-long flights, but not all passengers will want them. Some will prefer a stop to stretch their legs and get fresher air.

The reality is that there is room for both of them.

Sometimes we want to get there as fast as we can and get air in a can for 16 hours because of the speed. Other times, the idea of ​​going down to Bangkok or the Persian Gulf can be extremely attractive, especially since many of the airports there have transit hotels, gyms and swimming pools.

So far, only Qatar has one of the longest economic routes. Singapore Airlines is a business and premium economy.

If Qantas "Project Sunrise" takeoff flights involve savings, many would probably choose to stop Singapore for 19 hours nonstop at cheaper places.

Friendly skies are important

  sunset

Sunset over Kazakhstan.

Barry Neild / CNN

The sky above us is not international free for everyone where planes can wander at will. Each country is jealously guarding its airspace, requiring all aircraft to be authorized to operate in it.

When it comes to planning an ultra-long route in which every mile added to the journey stretches the operational boundaries of the aircraft, being able to draw the most direct route or the one with the most favorable tailgate, is from crucial. [19659003] In the case of flight QF7879, Qantas had to seek special permission to fly a course that its planes would not normally take – in Western Europe, then Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China, before entering more familiar territory over the Philippines. and Indonesia.

According to the airline's employees, obtaining the required clearance was reached immediately by cable. One party gave final approval only 36 hours before departure.

When Qantas last flew the London to Sydney route – a one-off trip in July 1989 involving a modified Boeing 747-400 carrying only 23 people, the world was a different place. The Soviet Union was still in force and China was far less open than it is now. This has required a different course over the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Oman and Sri Lanka.

Balance is also important

  qantas aircraft

Flight QF7879 flies nose-heavy due to its empty economy class.

Barry Neild / CNN

Take a closer look at a modern airplane and you'll be forgiven for thinking – after how surprised it is that such a huge machine can fly in the first place – that the situation of a handful of people or even a few boxes soda won't make much difference when it comes to balancing it in the air.

But you will be mistaken.

The Flight QF747-9 uses a brand new Boeing Dreamliner, which, although one of the most efficient in its class, is still needed to reduce mass on board to extend its operational boundaries. This meant that the entire economy class section with more than 150 seats in the rear of the cockpit was left empty, leading to a heavy aircraft in the front as few passengers on board were concentrated in first-class seating.

The effect of the legs was that all hand luggage should be stored in the upper recycle bins, and passengers should spend as much time as possible in the rear – in exercise, etc. – as much as possible.

With the weight in front there is more resistance which reduces fuel economy.

In order to further trim the aerodynamic profile of the aircraft, all its galleys were stored at the rear during the London-Sydney flight. There were no alcohol carts or the usual cans of soda. The only alcoholic beverage on board was wine and no traditional canned food.

However, there was a surprisingly abundant supply of coconut water.

Air travel becomes incredibly efficient

  qantas2 aircraft

These engines could remain in the air for another hour and 45 minutes.

Barry Neild / CNN

The fact that Qantas is even considering offering commercial routes from London and New York to Sydney and can carry 50 passengers with comfort is a testament to the engineering efficiency of modern aircraft.

A look back at the 1989 Qantas London-Sydney flight and the state-of-the-art Boeing 747-900 that made the trip shows just how far the industry has come.

Twenty years ago, the aircraft had to be stripped of all but a few basic seats to lose weight. Its fuel tanks were filled to the point of spillage with special aviation fuel imported from Eastern Europe.

In order to keep every last drop, it was towed to the runway before departure. Compare this to the QF7879, which did not need a full fuel tank (carrying about half of that of the 1989 flight) and could keep its cabin furniture fully in place.

The last flight tested new Boeing wind forecasting equipment that used near-actual data to make minor route corrections and further reduce fuel consumption.

The result was that he landed in Sydney with another 6300 kilograms of fuel. That's enough for another hour and 45 minutes of flying – 15 minutes more than expected.

It is impossible to ignore environmental concerns

  empty economy

Rows of empty spaces in the economy.

Richard Quest / CNN

Looking at row after row of economy class seats aboard QF7879, thoughts inevitably turned to the recent phenomenon of "dimming the flight", which advocates avoiding all air travel.

If this was not enough, the effects of the climate crisis affecting the planet were felt both in the country of departure and in the destination.

In the United Kingdom, the same heavy rains that flooded Heathrow with take-offs have exacerbated severe flooding in the north, which experts say the county will face more as climate change progresses.

As the plane approached Sydney at the end of the flight, the smoke from bush fires near the city – again linked to climate change – could be seen shrinking on the horizon.

Of course, flights like the QF7879 pump more pollutants into the atmosphere, and although Qantas offsets carbon emissions from the fields by claiming to be an industry-leading environmental program, there is no escaping the fact that aviation is currently part of the problem , not the solution.

With that said, air travel will not disappear. It is a key economic driver worldwide, and the aviation industry is doing much more than many other sectors to reduce the damage it is causing.

Whether this is motivated by public interest interests, genuine environmental concerns or increased profit margins achieved by burning less aviation fuel is questionable.

We are still ways to treat jet lag

  tracey sletten

Researcher Tracey Sletten demonstrates headphones to monitor brain waves.

Barry Neild / CNN

The jet age has been with us for more than half a century, but we're still no closer to finding a cure for one of the biggest international travel baths.

Recommended reactive lag agents are available in all shapes and sizes – from special headbands that bathe the user's eyes in blue light to pharmaceutical solutions that sometimes have unpleasant side effects.

If there was a proven, proven and reliable method to quickly reset body clocks, we would all use it.

The fact that the science of backlogs still has unclear ground is reflected by the presence of serious researchers aboard QF7879 from academic institutions, including Monarch University in Monash.

While Qantas Sunrise flights have been dismissed by some as a publicity stunt, you do not – as the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce points out – subject senior pilots to weeks of urine testing unless there is good reason. .

While Qantas hopes the test data will help regulators approve their long-haul flights, researchers say their findings could contribute to new ways to minimize the detrimental effects of jet lag on globes.

One London-Sydney flight by the kind assistance of Monash researcher Tracy Sletten: "It's all about the light. The time of day you get exposure to the light and the intensity of that light will help with your slowing down. more than anything else. "

But easing flying on health effects is possible

  test landing on test flights-5402

Exercise aboard can help minimize lag.

James D Morgan / Qantas [19659010] Watching the training procedures in which passengers on board the QF7879 were encouraged to participate is one of the most important highlights of the 19-hour journey. The comic dripping up and down the aisles, ramming and stretching was far more compelling than the last Tarantino movie offered on the backrest screens.

But it really helps, says Professor Corinne Callo of the Charles Perkins Medical Center of the Sydney Institute, who manages calisthenics in mid-air. She says the exercises activate blood circulation, stretch muscles and reduce body stiffness. Variation of the bowel of training for 19 hours also relieves jet lag.

Food can also help.

Food on board the London-Sydney flight was created to encourage passengers to sleep early in the journey and to wake them later to reflect the time of day of destination. For example, a heavy carbohydrate dinner served shortly after take-off was to help passengers' bodies produce an amino acid called tryptophan, which in turn promotes the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate the sleep pattern.

Need is the mother of airline innovation

  Alan Joyce qantas

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

James D. Morgan / Qantas

Qantas CEO Joyce is proud of the recognition that his airline is at the forefront of innovation in ultra-long hail flights – not least its Project Challenge Sunrise 'by Airbus and Boeing to provide the planes necessary to make the trip commercially viable.

But why does the airline run this way? "Just," says Joyce. "Australia is very far from everywhere. We have so many ultra long hail flights. When you think about the distances we travel – Perth to London is already a 17-hour flight, Sydney to Dallas is 16, Santiago is over 14 hours, then we have services directly to London from Sydney, which can be 21 hours … Paris, Frankfurt, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro … We could justify a significant fleet that does this economically. "

There are up to 19 airplane hours

  2nd sunrise

Two sunrise in one flight.

Barry Neild / CNN

Having that long in a 40,000 foot metal pipe is not a great idea for people to have a good time, but there are some benefits.

Obviously, those on board the QF7879 have the bragging rights of being on record. There was also the rare sight of witnessing separate sunrises in a single trip – something that, even if the flight goes into regular service, is unlikely to be repeated by Qantas, as certain flight schedules are unlikely to make it possible outside special events.

There was also the advantage of being able to disperse on an almost empty, brand new aircraft.

Anyone who buys an economical London-Sydney service location in the future may not feel the same way.

Being packed in cheaper seats – though better than the average leg allowance – will be a test of endurance.

That said, spending 20 hours interrupted by Internet access was a rare chance to spend some imposed digital downtime. Qantas may conveniently value any future Wi-Fi access beyond the budget of corporate bills if the flight becomes a permanent anchor.

Determining the "longest flight in the world" is complicated

  qantas test flight landing-8

That's a record!

James D Morgan / Qantas

We called the QF7879 a record flight both in terms of duration and distance. Not everyone agrees – and we recognize that the differences are subtle. In this case, the flight represents the longest distance traveled by a normal commercial airline for a commercial airline (17,800 kilometers) – and the longest time (19 hours and 19 minutes.)

Of course, you can say that reported because it was not a revenue flight – there were no tickets. This will leave the recorder as Singapore Airline's SQ32 service from Singapore to New York.

Other long-distance / long-distance applicants include a 22-hour flight in 2005 from PIA Boeing 777 from Hong Kong to London, covering 21 601 kilometers. But this can be rejected because it has deliberately gone astray around the world, a route that will never be used commercially.

What all these monster flights have in common is the requirement for great crew endurance and passenger endurance. And since they can be profitable in the end, we'll see more of them.


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