Explorers landed an Airbus A340 in Antarctica for the first time on November 2. It was also the first time that “an A340 landed on blue glacial ice,” the expedition’s pilot, Captain Carlos Mirpuri, said in his captain’s log.
The flight was arranged by Hi Fly that is a Portuguese boutique aviation firm.
The flight took off at 8 am from Cape Town, South Africa before flying 2,500 nautical miles (4,630 km) to Antarctica and then back again. Both the flights took 5 hours each and three hours were spent on the continent.
The topography and atmosphere there are extremely unreliable as the continent only has 50 landing strips and no airports. Pilots have to be massively cautious in landing as the ice can be pretty tricky to land on.
The A340 weighed 190 tons when it reached its destination and landing was full of anxiety as the ice could not be trusted entirely. However, Mirpuri stated that they “had done [their] homework properly” and that, despite its weight, the A340’s “four engines redundancy and very long-range, make it the ideal airplane” for their mission.
The airliner was chartered by a luxury adventure camp called Wolf’s Fang, organized by Antarctica tourism company the White Desert. The objective was to transport supplies to the deserted place. It was explained that the runway had extra grooves to make the path less slippery for the plane.
“The blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least,” Mirpuri explained.
The same A340 is expected to be used for flights of tourists and scientists along with cargo supplies to Antarctica. Futuristic flights like these are being arranged left right and center now. In September, for example, a Swedish aviation firm called OceanSky Cruises stated that it will arrange touristic trips to the North Pole through a luxury airship.