Long-haul Flights in Aviation History
Commercial flights have come a very long way from its inception on January 1, 1914. What started out as a single-passenger, 23-minute hop from St. Petersburg to Tampa Bay has developed into multi-million dollar, over-a-hundred-passenger flights between continents. PanAm that flew routes that took its planes to various countries in the Pacific in the late 1920 holds the record of the world’s longest commercial flight. PanAm has had many long-haul commercial flights around the world since then.
However, the distinction for the first-ever long-haul nonstop flight is held by 2 British air pilots during World War I. Capt. John Alcock and his co-pilot Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown flew from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919 on a flight that took 16 hours and 12 minutes on a converted Vickers-Vimy bomber plane.
The distance that the plane traveled was 1,900 miles and it flew on varying altitudes with the highest point being 12,000 feet above sea level. Another distinction that this flight holds is that it is also the first-ever flight that carried a load of mail on a transatlantic journey.
How Commercial Aviation is Doing Now in Terms of Long Flights
In more recent aviation history, Australia’s Qantas Airways and Singapore’s flight carrier Singapore Airlines have been the forerunners on the race for holding the world record on the longest commercial flight. Qantas is on the lead when it comes to travel time when its VH-OJA 747-400 plane flew non-stop from London, England to Sydney, NSW in August of 1989. The flight took a total of 20 hours, 9 minutes and 5 seconds to reach its destination.
The VH-OJA plane has since been retired from use now serves as a piece of aviation history’s relic at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society in Canberra, ACT. Qantas still has long-haul direct routes such as its flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas to Sydney, NSW. The flight time only takes 15 hours, 30 minutes despite a distance of 8, 439 miles, thanks to the presence of tailwinds.
On the other hand, Singapore Airlines holds the record for having flown the longest commercial flight in terms of distance when its Flight SQ-21 flew direct from Singapore’s Changi Airport to New York’s La Guardia Airport via its neighboring airport in Newark, New Jersey. Flight time normally took about 18 hours, 30 minutes over a distance of 9,534 miles. The flight utilized a 100-seater Airbus 350-500 airplane for its nine years of operation until it was discontinued last February of 2015.
The flight only provided business-class seats to its passengers that consisted mostly of some of the country’s biggest names in the business world. The airline cites the constantly rising fuel prices as the primary reason for the cessation of its direct Changi-Newark and vice versa flights. Airline executives have stated that there will still be flights from Singapore to New York, but these would be done with stopovers in Frankfurt, Germany.
How to Survive a Long-distance Flight
Note that these record-holders for the longest commercial flight that flew non-stop over long distances were flown using airplanes that had high fuel capacity. It goes without saying that an airplane flying a non-stop route does not have any means of refueling while in the air, which is why it has to be able to carry its own fuel supply with enough extra fuel for emergencies. In fact, Qantas’ Boeing 747-400 VH-OJA plane’s fuel capacity is big enough to fill at least eight backyard pools.
However, the airplanes are not the only ones that have to be outfitted to last the distance and the length of flight time. Passengers will also have to be prepared for the tedious boredom of spending more than half and entire day on an airplane. Passengers who have flown on any of the longest commercial flight routes can attest to the fact that a long-haul flight can be quite miserable for the unprepared.
Boredom is not the only thing to battle with after about 5-6 hours spent sitting on a cramped airplane seat, regardless if it is an economy- or business-class seat. Passengers can also experience any of the following:
- Dehydration – Aircraft passengers are highly prone to dehydration due to the dry air maintained inside the aircraft.
- Deep-vein Thrombosis – This often develops due to sitting still for an extended period of time. A painful clot on the legs characterizes this condition.
There are some expert tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of travelling non-stops on the longest flight provided by any airline. These tips include:
- Find any means of escape. The word escape should not be taken literally since it would be dangerous for the aircraft and everyone who’s on it. Escape into a good book that you’ve been wanting to read but never really found the time to do so before. Also, take advantage of the headphones and watch movies on the in-flight TV.
However, since most of the in-flight movies and TV shows have to be paid for, most passengers simply prefer watching their favorite shows on their own devices or listening to their favorite music on their iPod or mp3 players. Bring a few magazines too for some variety.
- Move those limbs every once in a while. The best way to avoid deep-vein thrombosis is by standing up every few hours and walking to and fro so that blood will circulate properly. Go to the in-flight bar, the toilet, or just walk to one end of the aisle.
- Drink loads of water. This method shoots two birds with a single stone, as some people might say. It effectively prevents dehydration and it gives the passenger a reason to stand up and go to the toilet.
Another thing that a lot of airline passengers take for granted is the importance of traveling light, especially in terms of their carry-on luggage. This is something that travelers should take seriously when going on the longest commercial flight of their life. Be sure to put only the most essential things on the carry-on bag, since a heavy bag can add to the discomfort of the cramped seat.
It is okay to bring a heavy carry-on bag if it will be stowed onto the overhead bins. However, when the bag contains all the important documents, wallet and gadgets, it could be a bit worrying to leave it on the bin to be tossed to and fro during bouts of turbulence. This means that the bag would be placed on one’s lap or on the side of one’s seat, which is why it has to be heavy and small for comfort.