Qantas to conduct ‘Project Sunrise’ test flights

Research flights to study the impact of ultra-long-haul flights on passengers and crew

Qantas is set test the viability of proposed ultra long-haul flights (approximately 19 hours) between Sydney and London and New York on passenger and crew health and wellbeing before the year’s end.

The trio of research flights are part of Qantas’ ‘Project Sunrise’, which aspires to operate regular nonstop flights between the Australian eastern seaboard capitals (Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne) and both the UK capital and The Big Apple.

Three flights over three months (October, November and December) will use new Boeing 787-9s and re-route their planned delivery flights. Instead of flying empty from Seattle to Australia, the new Dreamliners will simulate two Project Sunrise routes – London and New York to Sydney. Those aircraft will then enter regular commercial services for the Australian airline.

This will represent the world’s first flight by a commercial airline direct from New York to Sydney and only the second time a commercial airline has flown direct from London to Sydney.

Each flight will have a maximum of 40 people, including crew, in order to minimise weight and give the necessary fuel range. Carbon emissions from the flights will be fully offset.

Qantas has enlisted Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Monash University, in conjuction with CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, to conduct the onboard research.

Passengers on the test flights, most of whom will be Qantas staff, will be fitted with wearable technology devices and take part in specific experiences at varying stages of the approximately 19 hour flights. Sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment will all be assessed.

Monash University researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights.

Pilots will wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness, while crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights will also be gauged. The aim of which is to establish data to assist in building the optimum work and rest pattern for pilots operating long-haul services.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the flights will give medical experts the chance to do real-time research that will translate into health and wellbeing benefits.

“Ultra-long-haul flying presents a lot of common sense questions about the comfort and wellbeing of passengers and crew. These flights are going to provide invaluable data to help answer them.

“For customers, the key will be minimising jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight. For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximise rest during their down time on these flights.

“Flying nonstop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right.

“No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise. We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing long-haul flights,” added Joyce.

“No airline has done this kind of dedicated research before and we’ll be using the results to help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Project Sunrise. We’ll also be looking at how we can use it to improve our existing long-haul flights,” added Joyce.

Similar research has already been conducted by Qantas on its Perth-London service, with that data to be used in the new ultra long-haul flight research. Customer feedback on food choices, separate stretching and wellbeing zones and entertainment options will also be tested.

Airbus and Boeing have both pitched aircraft (A350 and 777X) to Qantas that are capable of operating Project Sunrise flights with a viable commercial payload. A final decision on Project Sunrise – which depends on aircraft economics, regulatory approvals and industrial agreements – is expected by the end of December 2019.

“There’s plenty of enthusiasm for Sunrise, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. This is ultimately a business decision and the economics have to stack up,” Joyce concluded.

Lead image: Captain Lisa Norman with Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce

Want to be in the luxury travel know? Subscribe to our free eNewsletter here to keep up to date with everything in the luxury travel industry.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.