World’s first 20-hour, non-stop airline flight to test humans’ limits

(scmp.com) – For decades, travellers have stoically endured jet lag as an unavoidable menace on long journeys.

Now, as airlines push for record-breaking non-stop flights halfway around the planet, efforts to counter the debilitating symptoms are turning into a billion-dollar industry.

Fresh insight into the physical and emotional toll of ultra-long-haul travel should emerge this weekend when 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 US on Friday and landing in Australia during its Sunday morning.

This will be more than an endurance exercise. Scientists and medical researchers in the cabin will turn Qantas’ brand-new Boeing Dreamliner into a high-altitude laboratory.

They’ll screen the brains of the pilots for alertness, while monitoring the food, sleep and activity of the few dozen passengers. The aim is to see how humans hold up to the ordeal.