B1 Intermediate US 20 Folder Collection
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David Slotnick: Back in October,
I flew on a nearly 20-hour flight
from New York to Sydney with Qantas Airways.
But this wasn't your ordinary long-haul trip.
There were only 50 people on board
because this was a test flight
to see how ultra-long flights affect passengers and pilots.
But is bringing a flight like this
to regular service possible?
And would customers even want to be in the air
that long without a break?
Normally if you're flying from New York to Sydney,
you'll have to stop for a layover,
which usually adds to jet lag
and takes longer than a direct flight.
So airlines have been working
towards more convenient routes.
Qantas Airways recently tested two flights:
New York City to Sydney and London to Sydney.
At nearly 19 1/2 hours long,
they each set the record for the longest passenger flight
in the world at the time.
The test flights were aboard a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
that only had about 40 passengers
and 10 crew members on board.
Because, technically, these planes
couldn't make the distance with a full payload.
They would've run out of fuel.
Sean Golding: We have two crews, four pilots in total.
We'll have a team A and a team B,
and we'll be swapping throughout the night
to ensure that the pilots get adequate rest.
Slotnick: Pilots gave urine samples
every four hours to test melatonin levels.
They were also outfitted with an activity monitor,
a light monitor, and an EEG headset
to monitor their alertness.
Golding: There's a whole bunch of sensors
in behind this strap here
that are measuring our brain wave activity.
Slotnick: So, obviously, this was no ordinary flight.
We were making aviation history.
Slotnick: We were flying in business-class seats,
but the Qantas team asked us
to rotate through the coach cabin
to balance out the weight on the plane.
So I tried out the coach cabin,
but obviously I preferred my business-class seat.
We've got about 18 hours and 17 minutes to go.
So it's gonna be a slightly shorter flight
than the 20 hours that was a possibility.
That's really just 'cause the winds are working with us,
the way that the captain was able to plan the flight.
We're not expecting any bad weather,
and that's gonna help us fly just a little bit faster.
If this had been a normal long-haul flight,
the plane would have stayed on New York time
throughout the flight,
which typically makes it hard to adjust
to a new time zone when you arrive.
But on this flight, the plane and its passengers
switched to Sydney time right away
as part of an experiment to minimize jet lag.
Marie Carroll: Everything about the cabin lighting,
everything about the food,
will be designed either to keep people awake
or to induce them to go to sleep.
And so we're hoping that
they're going to end up getting off the plane
and be quite comfortable in Sydney time.
Slotnick: Throughout the flight,
we had to follow a sleep schedule.
But normally passengers wouldn't have had to do this.
Right now, the cabin lights are all bright,
everybody's walking around taking pictures,
and we're really just trying to, you know,
power through and stay awake.
To keep us from falling asleep,
we were encouraged to get up and walk around.
I went and checked out the crew quarters,
where cabin crew members and pilots
can take a nap between their shifts.
Then it was time to eat.
This is the first meal.
This is the one that's a little spicier:
chocolate, chilies, peppers.
The first meal was light, spicy, and flavorful,
helping us stay wide awake.
We weren't supposed to have any alcohol
because it would make us sleepy.
After lunch, we were asked to stay awake
for the next four hours until dinner.
Some people watched movies,
and others chose to keep moving,
stretching, squatting, and even dancing.
Definitely starting to feel a bit tired.
It is 3 o'clock in the morning, New York time.
We're about to have our dinner and then after that
the whole plane is gonna go to sleep.
The flight crew came and put mattress pads
on each of the seats.
Then it was time for a heavy dinner
that would make us want to sleep.
At the touch of a button,
the business-class seats folded flat into a bed.
Then the flight attendants turned off the lights
to match Sydney's nighttime.
I passed out almost immediately and slept so hard.
In the morning, the lights were brought up slowly
with a warm glow, copying Sydney's sunrise.
Right away, we had breakfast.
And before I knew it, we were coming in on Sydney.
We landed at 7:43 a.m., 19 hours and 16 minutes
after taking off from New York.
Even after crossing 15 time zones,
I didn't feel jet lagged.
And all the other passengers I spoke to felt the same.
Qantas hasn't released the pilots' biometric data yet,
but the pilots told me they felt great after the flight.
20 hours in the air
wasn't as hard on my body as I thought it would be.
The new service flow really did help me
adjust to Sydney time a lot faster
than had I broken up the trip with a stop.
But I really think getting up and moving,
eating the right food, and sleeping on Sydney time
is what made the flight easier.
Plus, we got there a lot faster.
While I would totally take this flight again,
I'll have to wait.
Qantas says it won't actually start
regular service until 2023.
I flew it on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
However, Qantas picked the Airbus A350-1000
for the future routes.
But before Qantas starts flying,
it has to convince investors that this'll make money
and that passengers would actually wanna take this flight.
Then they have to convince regulators
that crews can work the long flight safely.
Right now, Singapore Airlines holds the record
for the longest commercial flight:
a 19-hour daily flight
from Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore.
But with its test flights through Project Sunrise,
Qantas is getting closer to flying these routes
as regular service and holding the record
for the world's longest flight.
Alan Joyce: Project Sunrise is our attempt to overcome
probably the last frontier in aviation.
And that opens up just about every destination
in the world we can fly nonstop to.
Slotnick: Shortly after my flight,
Qantas flew another successful test flight
from London to Sydney.
It came in at 19 hours and 19 minutes,
setting another record for the world's longest flight.
But Qantas' CEO said that's not what it's about.
Joyce: We're not aiming to have
the title of the world's longest flight.
For us, it's about having
the world's most convenient flights, to avoid stopovers,
and that's what we're aiming for.
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What It's Like To Test The World's Longest Flight

20 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on January 20, 2020
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