Qantas's flying experiment from New York to Sydney has landed, linking the east coast of the United States to the east coast of Australia with a non-stop flight for the first time.

The 16,200km flight took 19 hours 16 minutes, and along the way 49 passengers and crew were monitored to assess health and wellbeing on board.

Qantas captain Sean Golding, who led the four pilots operating the service, said: "The flight went really smoothly. Headwinds picked up overnight, which slowed us down to start with, but that was part of our scenario planning. Given how long we were airborne, we were able to keep optimising the flight path to make the best of the conditions.''

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He said he had never had such a quick departure from New York's JFK Airport as the brand new Dreamliner was given priority.

He said he was proud to be part of history.

''There's only ever one first and this is it.''

Data from these experiments will be used help shape the crew rostering and customer service of Qantas' ultra-long-haul flights in future. This includes Project Sunrise - the airline's plan to fly from the US east coast and from London to eastern Australian cities.

It has yet to decide whether to commit to the routes which would use new generation aircraft, either Airbus A350s or Boeing's 777X.

The Qantas flight was nearly 1000km longer than the longest commercial flight - Singapore Airlines' service from Singapore to Newark, New York, which started a year ago.

Tests during the Qantas flight ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers.

Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jet lag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas.


Chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline was always looking at ways of minimising fatigue for the pilots and the crew.

Data and feedback would also determine products and service on the ultra-long-range flights. It would largely be up to individuals.

''We've got to give people the choice. Do you want the healthy way of doing it as the scientists recommend it, or do you want to drink as much as you want during the flight,'' Joyce said on board the plane.

Arriving in Sydney, he said the flight was a significant first for aviation.

''Hopefully, it's a preview of a regular service that will speed up how people travel from one side of the globe to the other.''

Night flights usually start with dinner and then lights off. For this flight, Qantas started with lunch and kept the lights on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at Sydney.

Joyce said this was a way of reducing the jet lag straight away.

"What's already clear is how much time you can save. Our regular, one-stop New York to Sydney service (QF12) took off three hours before our direct flight but we arrived a few minutes ahead of it, meaning we saved a significant amount of total travel time by not having to stop."

Qantas crew and airline boss Alan Joyce (front) after landing in Sydney. Photo / James D Morgan
Qantas crew and airline boss Alan Joyce (front) after landing in Sydney. Photo / James D Morgan

Goulding said the flight used around 95 tonnes to 101 tonnes of fuel.

Two more research flights are planned as part of the Project Sunrise evaluations – London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December. Emissions from all research flights will be fully offset.

A decision on Project Sunrise is expected by the end of the year.
Air New Zealand is also considering direct flights to New York from Auckland, although the distance would not be as great.