Qantas to launch non-stop London, New York test flights from October

Three Boeing 787s will fly non-stop marathons from London and New York to Sydney as Qantas continues research into Project Sunrise

By David Flynn, August 22 2019

Qantas will run a series of non-stop flights from London and New York to Sydney from October 2019 as research into its ambitious Project Sunrise program.

The flights will be made by three factory-fresh Boeing 787 jets and used to assess factors such as wellbeing and comfort for both crew and passengers, as well as researching crew rostering and break times – although only 40 people will be on board each flight to ensure that the Dreamliners can make the trip with a single load of fuel.

And before you can ask: no, Qantas won't be selling seats on these special flights. Other than crew, those in the cabin will mostly be Qantas employees taking part in testing.

They'll be fitted with wearable technology devices and taking part in specific experiences at varying stages of the approximately 19 hour flights.

Non-stop guinea pigs

Scientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.

Monash University researchers will work with pilots to record crew melatonin levels before, during and after the flights. Pilots will wear an EEG device that tracks brain wave patterns and monitors alertness, with the aim of establishing data "to assist in building the optimum work and rest pattern for pilots operating long haul services."

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce says 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.”

Boeing 787s to test Project Sunrise

One Dreamliner will fly directly from the Boeing facility at Seattle to London, with two more making their way to New York, from where each will embark on an estimated 18.5 hour trek to Sydney – in effect, they'll be delivery flights taking the scenic route.

"These flights are ground-breaking in themselves," Joyce notes. "No commercial airline has done these types of experiments before. No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York to Sydney before. The things we learn will be invaluable not just for Sunrise, but for all our long-haul services.”

As for the choice of the Project Sunrise jets themselves, Joyce says "we’ll be making the final YES-NO decision on Sunrise by the end of this year."

Both Airbus and Boeing are in the race – even allowing for potential delays to the ultra-long range Boeing 777X.

"We know that Boeing and Airbus have aircraft that can do the job, and we have their best-and-final offers on the table – including a compelling offer from Boeing to deal with any delay to the 777X."

Joyce added that the airline also has "a high-level design of what our cabins would look like," but sounded a note of caution over the bottom-line economics.

"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. One of the hurdles is a deal with our pilots to fly the aircraft. We’re asking for them for some productivity gains – just as we did with the introduction of the Dreamliner – and those discussions are ongoing."

David
David

David Flynn

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 296

If they're going to measure how people feel after such a long trip, they should make sure that people are sitting next to each other in 17.5 inch seats - the same as any normal commercial flight. Spacing people out throughout the cabin won't result in the same comfort factor.

whoppersandwich

whoppersandwich

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2017

Total posts 40

While it appears that Sydney/Monash Uni are assessing passenger effects, these flight are definitely designed primarily for crew research.

Libertyscott

Libertyscott

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 150

Need three in front, three directly behind and three behind them, all reclined, and they can't all be 5'2" and 55kg, and the premium economy passengers need to have seats in front fully reclined into them.

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 479

An interesting development, given the Boeing 'curve-ball' announcement of the B777-8 delivery delays.

However, what I find distinctly odd (yes, even with the maximum load of 40 staff) is that JFK-SYD nonstop is being preferenced over SYD-JFK-SYD as a first off? At least with the latter, you have the benefit of tailwinds ex SYD over the South Pacific on the first leg, whereas on the nominated JFK-SYD flight, the new aircraft will need to contend with headwinds. Whilst there is no question of safety with such a low load, I guess QF is doing just one 'proving' flight rather than two on this route.

Good to see that these delivery flights are being used intuitively though.

Perhaps this development gives some greater insight into the 'compelling' element apparently contained in Boeing's bid for the Sunrise project? Let the speculation begin ...

calmelb

calmelb

20 Apr 2015

Total posts 11

They're doing these flights as a delivery route and so they're not going to waste fuel flying back to JFK.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 521

Can you launch a test flight?

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Flights of that duration I will not be rushing for.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

Not sure how this a compelling element to Boeing's bid as Airbus would fly the same route so the test equally applies to them. A very sensible use of a delivery flight though and as mentioned: at least six of the forty should be in the middle three economy rows three in front and three behind; and get paid a bonus for their endurance. Maybe another six in the same arrangement in PE with a smaller bonus.

whoppersandwich

whoppersandwich

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2017

Total posts 40

This isn't the “compelling option”. The option from Boeing suggests a stop-gap aircraft delivered in 2022 that will be able to range out to JFK at the very least, to be then followed by a proper ULH model.

Rumours are that the initial model could be similar to the 787-10s that NZ have ordered for their New York flights.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 920

It seems that the "compelling offer" is 777-9s with a lighter load for longer range (ie 300 seats instead of the 77X-9s normal 400), which can cover any delay to the -8s, and then be used to replace A380s as they start to retire around 2027.

Notso Swift

Notso Swift

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 100

I bet QANTAS staff do not drink as much as I do on one of these flights, so the test is void in my eyes

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

Whopper the 78-10 won't do New York for NZ and that has been clarified. It will free up 78-9s for that. The 78-10 has much the same range as the A339 around 7000nm. To squeeze another 2000nm out of it will be a big ask unless an awful lot of additional fuel tanks and new landing gear. They may try to squeeze a bit more out of a 789 but that would bring the payload to well under 200 passengers. The compelling case may be around price. Airbus may still have its nose in front with a plane that is actually flying and all it needs is more fuel capacity and maybe new landing gear.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

For a 777-9 they may have to add some auxiliary tanks (replace passengers with fuel) but hopefully not increase take off weight as that may impinge on landing gear. I am sure they are doing their sums on this. The 77-8s then may come later as the A380s phase out.

Gold4Life

Gold4Life

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 10

The proposal is believed to have extra fuel in the cargo bays of the 777-9, combined with a lower passenger count, to act as a stop-gap until the 777-8 arrives. Qantas would be able to hang onto the 777-9s. Would be interesting to see if the 777-9s would be fitted nose-to-tail with seats, and only the necessary 300ish of those sold on Sunrise flights but the whole lot put on the market for conventional services such as SYD-LAX; or if the 777-9s would have only the necessary number of seats installed to keep empty weight down (leaving an empty floorspace zone down the back of economy, for example) for Sunrise flights and then roll back into the hangar to have the remaining seats fitted once the 777-8s arrive and the 777-9s are converted for regular use.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

They used to have 747 combis in the 1980s so blocking off the rear 20metres or so of the 779 and leaving it bare might work. Sorting out the balance might be tricky but not insurmountable ( put all the baggage et al there).

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

They could put a cargo door on the empty space for non long range flights, but I suspect too complicated and expensive to first put it in then take it out in five years time.

Nickj338395

Nickj338395

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 5

Plenty of suggestions but ultimately down to whether it turns a profit. Personally would be happy to fly direct if that ever is an option

Herb33

Herb33

Air Canada - Aeroplan

02 Sep 2015

Total posts 11

Put Alan Joyce and two senior executives in most crowded row, with full passengers ahead and behind. I suspect Sunrise flights will use full premium seating, similar to Singapore ULH flights

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

I suspect it won't be full premium Herb as SQ has only 150 seats. I suspect 50:50; 150 odd in premium and and 150 odd in economy. The Perth flight fills with few sale seats and lots of fully flexible. It has 25% premium as I recall.


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