The Australian flag carrier, Qantas, completed its first test flight on the much-awaited Project Sunrise. In a bid to launch the world’s longest nonstop commercial flight between New York and Sydney, the first flight is set to provide valuable data to the airline.
For a flight in the region of 20 hours, the wellbeing of passengers is paramount. Simple Flying has looked into how Qantas passengers can stay healthy on the marathon flight, once Project Sunrise flights take off officially by 2022/2023.
In an attempt to open up a direct route between Australia’s east coast and New York, Qantas is planning to launch Project Sunrise. The first of three scheduled test flights has just been completed. A total of 50 people boarded the carrier’s brand new Dreamliner, dubbed Kookaburra. Flight QF7879 touched down in Sydney after 19 hours and 16 minutes in the air.
This test forms part of a three-flight research plan announced by Qantas in August, designed to gather data on the flight of more than 16,000 kilometers. The flights will be operating at maximum fuel load. The main outcomes of the research are set to focus on increasing health and wellness, minimizing jetlag and identifying optimum crew rest and work periods.
Health risks of long haul flights
There are several health risks that are presented to passengers on long haul flights. To understand what passengers will be exposed to for near 20 hours on the Project Sunrise flights, it is important to run over the basic known effects it could have on people.
- Dehydration: With cabin air humidity at less than 20%, the severe dryness of the air can lead to a quicker onset of dehydration. With the availability of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, this is further exacerbated.
- Infection: This follows on dehydration, as the drying out of mucous membranes makes a person more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Staying stationary in a seated position for extended periods in a pressurized cabin can lead to the formation of blood clots deep in the body, typically in the lower leg or thigh.
- Radiation: This is especially applicable to cabin crew and pilots, as the altitude exposes humans to cosmic radiation.
- Medical emergencies: On a long-haul flight such as Project Sunrise, medical emergencies take on a whole new level of severity.
How passengers can stay healthy
To offset the added stress on the human body, passengers on the Project Sunrise flights will do well to be mindful of the health risks involved and to be proactive in mitigating some of these. Passengers can stay healthy on the flight between Australia and New York by observing these basic health practices:
- Hydrate: Hydration pre-flight is going to be very important. Passengers should ensure that they should drink enough fluids. This will compensate for the higher rate of dehydration on the flight. Avoiding drinks like coffee, or alcoholic beverages, will further aid passengers, whilst drinking water throughout the flight.
- Sanitizing: To lessen the risk of infection, passengers should look at wiping down their seating areas when boarding the flight. Even though cabins are thoroughly cleaned, using something as simple as hand sanitizer will go a long way. This includes using sanitizer when using the aircraft’s restrooms.
- Keep moving: To counteract the risk of DVT, it is important to move around during the flight. As with all the risks involved, Project Sunrise flights will exaggerate the measures to be undertaken by passengers. Walking around now and then, as well as rotating ankles whilst seated, will help prevent the onset of DVT. Additionally, compression socks may also help.
- Consult a physician: Passengers with existing medical conditions should consult with a medical physician before boarding a flight such as this. With diminished access to medical facilities onboard, passengers should be sure that their issues will not affect their journey. If necessary, breaking up the flight between Sydney and New York would be in the best interest.
As Project Sunrise conducts its next two research flights, the data gathered will enable more thorough health and safety assessments. With Qantas pushing the boundaries of commercial air travel, how will the boundaries of the human body be pushed?