Airbus just achieved an aviation first in Antarctica.
One of the company’s A340 planes has successfully landed on the southernmost continent for the first time in history. Hi Fly, a boutique aviation outfit based in Portugal, spearheaded the flight, which took place on November 2.
Piloted by Captain Carlos Mirpuri, who also happens to be Hi Fly’s vice president, the widebody aircraft flew a total of 2,500 nautical miles from South Africa to Antarctica and back. Each flight took just over five hours, with Mirpuri and his crew spending less than three hours on the White Continent.
The cargo jet was chartered by Wolf’s Fang, a new luxury adventure camp helmed by the Antarctica tourism company White Desert, to bring much-needed supplies to the South Pole location. The ice runway at the Wolf’s Fang, which is almost a mile thick and 10,000 feet long, can be extremely difficult to navigate. In fact, special grooves have to be carved into the runway to give the plane a better grip while braking.
“The cooler it is the better,” Mipuri said in a statement.
Another hazard is the glare that bounces off the snow and ice. This not only makes the runway hard to distinguish, but it also makes it tough for your eyes to adjust between the outside view and the plane’s instrumentation. To combat this, the pilots don special eyewear.
“The blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least,” the captain adds.
Despite the difficulties, Mipuri successfully got the jet’s wheels down. Following this landmark flight, the A340 will be used to fly a small number of tourists and scientists to Antarctica, along with essential cargo.
It’s worth noting that there is still no actual airport in Antarctica. The icy abyss only has 50 landing strips and runways, which means there will likely be a few more challenging landings in the future. But Mipuri and his crew have proven that it can be done.
Check out more photos below: