Human guinea pigs prepare for the world’s longest direct flight: 20 hours

Businessman listening music while sleeping in airplane

Fresh insight into the physical and emotional toll of ultra-long-haul travel should emerge this weekend when Qantas Airways Ltd. flies direct from New York to Sydney. No airline has ever completed that route without stopping. At nearly 20 hours, it’s set to be the world’s longest flight, leaving the U.S. on Friday and landing in Australia on Sunday morning, Aussie time.

This will be more than an endurance exercise. Scientists and medical researchers in the cabin will turn Qantas’ new Boeing Co. Dreamliner into a high-altitude laboratory. They’ll screen the brains of the pilots for alertness while monitoring the food consumption, sleep and activity of the few dozen passengers. The aim is to see how humans hold up to the ordeal.

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