Qantas’ first Project Sunrise research flight from New York to Sydney this October has set new standards for long-haul flying.

Qantas Flight 7879, a 787-9 aircraft with 50 passengers and crew on board, departed New York’s John F Kennedy Airport at 9pm on 19 October as the first commercial aircraft to fly non-stop between New York and Sydney.

The purpose of the record-breaking flight was to conduct scientific research on passengers and crew on an ultra-long haul flight, with the aim of increasing health and wellness, minimising jetlag and identifying optimum crew rest and work periods.

It was part of Qantas’ ongoing quest to launch commercial flights between the east coast of Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and New York and London. The direct flights would save passengers up to four hours in total travel time and follow the successful Perth-London route, which started in March 2018 and is the only direct link between Australia and Europe. While the 787-9 is not designed for the 16,200 km journey, Airbus and Boeing have pitched other aircraft (the A350 and 777X respectively) with the range to operate Project Sunrise flights on a commercial basis. The business case being developed by Qantas to inform a final yes/no decision on Project Sunrise is expected by the end of this year. If approved, flights would start in 2022/23.