Passengers on the second Qantas “Project Sunrise” flight will get supper and a glass of wine for breakfast as the Australian airline embarks on its latest publicity-generating trial flight from London.
This is the second time a Qantas aircraft will have flown non-stop between London and Sydney — the last was a Boeing 747-400 ferry flight in 1989 — and comes 100 years after the first London to Australia flight by pioneering aviators Ross and Keith Smith.
At 17,800kms, the flight is about 1500kms longer than the previous New York-Sydney test flight but favorable tailwinds mean it is expected to take about the same time of 19.5 hours.
The Boeing 787-9 delivery flight involves the aircraft with the airline’s centenary livery and will carry about 50 passengers and crew to enable the aircraft to make the long journey.
Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre as well as the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) will again travel on the non-stop Dreamliner flight to collect passenger and crew data
Passengers will board at 6 am on Thursday London time. After take-off, they will be offered a range of high GI supper options such as chicken broth with macaroni or a steak sandwich, along with a glass of wine and a milk-based pana cotta dessert.
They will be encouraged to sleep by 10am London time to help avoid light and reset their body clock to Sydney time.
“We are hopeful that the interventions and strategies we tried on the first research flight helped passengers better manage the challenges of crossing multiple time zones,’’ said Professor Corinne Caillaud from the Charles Perkins centre.
“From a research point of view, it was something quite novel.”
Qantas boss Alan Joyce said innovation was the key to the long flights and included looking at options to redesign aircraft cabins to include “move and stretch zones“ and other social areas.
“We know that travelers want room to move on these direct services, and the exercises we encouraged on the first research flight seemed to work really well.,’’ he said.
“So, we’re definitely looking to incorporate on-board stretching zones and even some simple modifications like overhead handles to encourage low impact exercises.”
Qantas hopes to use the findings from the research for non-stop commercial flights it hopes to start in 2023 between East Coast Australia and Sydney and London.
However, it has yet to strike a deal with pilots that delivers the productivity improvements it says are needed to make the service viable and Joyce has warned the project will not proceed unless this happens.
Qantas first flew between London and Sydney in 1947 and the flight in those days took five days and six stops. The airline’s non-stop London-Perth flight today takes about 17 hours.
“Our Perth to London flight was a huge leap forward and it’s been incredibly popular,’’ Joyce said.
“The final frontier is New York and London to the east coast of Australia non-stop and we are hopeful of conquering that by 2023 if we can make all elements of the business case stack up.”
The plane is scheduled to land in Sydney just before noon Friday to kick off the airline’s 100th-anniversary celebrations.