I never thought I would do Macarena at 2:00 at 35,000 feet, but when researchers from the University of Sydney suggested that it was the best way to keep jet lag at bay, I joined.
NBC NEWS was the only US broadcasting group on board a record-breaking Qantas Airways research flight, flying directly from New York's JFK airport to Sydney.
The flight had a total travel time of 19 hours and 16 minutes, and by 07:30 Sunday we were all happy to pull out of our seats and put our feet on the ground in Australia.
Qantas called the aircraft "Project Sunrise", a research flight to test the effect of a 19-20 hour flight on both passengers and pilots. Qantas wants to add direct flights to its regular service, but CEO Alan Joyce said the airline must first convince Australian regulators that it is safe.
"We have to extend the operating hours of the pilots from 20 hours to 22 hours, maybe to 24 hours" for it to work, he said.
The airline plans to make a second JFK to Sydney test flight and a third from London to Sydney.
On our plane, four pilots took turns sleeping in the crew quarters two— two beds of two sizes just above the front galley.
For 20 days before, during and after the flight, each pilot keeps a log of their sleep and activity patterns. When the flight began, they all wore an EEG scanner on their heads to measure brain activity, a light meter to measure melatonin levels, and an activity monitor to record their movements. Researchers also collected urine samples throughout the trip for future analysis.
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Six frequent flyers from Qantas that joined the study also keep activity / sleep diary. As the hours ticked by on the flight, the university team used an iPad to test each passenger's reaction time.
Flight 7879 left JFK at 09:30. Friday night after airport controllers put the plane in front of the cab line and radioed: "We wish you congratulations on your dedication story to Sydney."
The airline thinks people will pay a premium for flying directly from New York to Sydney without a stop in Los Angeles. But it also recognizes that it needs to help passengers avoid jet lag, especially for those traveling by bus.
To do that, the crew insisted that we were in Sydney time the moment we boarded. Sydney is 15 hours ahead of New York, so it was lunch time. The cabin lights were kept at full brightness for almost eight hours. No gossip to sleep on this flight!