How pilots stay alert on ultra-long-range flights

Last week, Qantas operated the world’s first commercial flight between New York and Sydney, a 19-hour and 16-minute epic journey. It was part of the airline’s “Project Sunrise”, a study into the feasibility of super-long-haul flights for both machine and human.

While the 787 Dreamliner is a great aircraft to operate such ultra-long-range (ULR) flights, humans aren’t designed particularly well to be cooped up in a pressurised tube for such sustained periods. It’s made a bit better if you have a flatbed to spend the entirety of the flight in. Even in the back of the aircraft, having films to watch and being able to doze off whenever you chose helps eat up the time.

However, what about the crew who call that pressurised tube their office? Those people are working a 20-plus-hour day and have to perform at their peak, right until the end of that long slog. ULR flights pose their own challenges to those who keep you safe on board, so this is how we do it.

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