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Qantas completes non-stop 19-hour New York to Sydney flight

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MELBOURNE: Australia's flag carrier Qantas yesterday completed a non-stop test flight from New York to Sydney, researching how the world's longest potential commercial airplane journey of nearly 20 hours would impact pilots, crew and passengers.

Carrying 50 passengers and crew on board, Qantas Flight 7879 on a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner touched down in Sydney yesterday morning after a 16,200km journey which lasted 19 hours and 16 minutes.

"This is a really historic moment for Qantas, a really historic moment for Australian aviation and a really historic moment for world aviation," Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce, who took the flight, said after landing.

With demand for air travel rapidly growing and aircraft performance improving, carriers are increasingly looking into ultra-long-haul travel. The International Air Transport Association expects the worldwide number of annual passengers to grow from 4.6 billion this year to 8.2 billion by 2037.

No commercial aircraft currently has the range to fly such an ultra-long haul with a full passenger and cargo load.

To give the plane the needed range, the Qantas flight took off with maximum fuel, only a few passengers, restricted baggage load and no cargo.

The goal was to gather data, with a team of researchers to monitor, among other things, lighting, activity, sleep and consumption patterns of passengers, and crew melatonin levels. They tracked the brain wave patterns of the pilots with monitoring devices.

The aim of the research was, Qantas said in a statement, to increase health and wellness, minimise jet lag and identify optimum crew rest and work periods. - REUTERS