An Airbus A340 plane landed on Antarctica for the first time in history. Projected by Hi Fly, a boutique aviation company, the Hi-Fly 801 took off from Cape Town, South Africa on November 2. Wolf's Fang, an adventure camp on the White Continent, commissioned the plane and brought essential supplies to the resort as per Hi Fly website. Wolf's Fang is a new project from a popular Antarctica tourism company, the White Desert. Notably, the crew of Hi Fly 801 was led by Captain Carlos Mirpuri, who is also the vice president of Hi Fly.
As per the captain's log written by Mirpuri, after completing the journey, the flight took nearly five hours to reach Antarctica, and the crew spent less than three hours on the blue-ice runway, covering 2,500 nautical miles. Due to challenging weather conditions, the Wolf's Fang property is designated as a C-Level airport, despite not being an airport, meaning only a highly specialized crew can fly there. "The cooler it is, the better," wrote Mirpuri in his log.
"Grooving is carved along the runway by special equipment, and after cleaning and carving, we get an adequate braking coefficient. The runway being 3,000 meters long, landing and stopping an A340 that heavy on that airfield wouldn't be a problem," he added. Although the blue ice looked amazing, the tremendous reflection escalated concern among the pilots. "The reflection is tremendous, and proper eyewear helps you adjust your eyes between the outside view and the instrumentation. The non-flying pilot has an important role in making the usual plus extra callouts, especially in the late stages of the approach, "he added.
In the year 1928, the first recorded flight to Antarctica was a Lockheed Vega 1, which was piloted by George Hubert Wilkins, an Australian military pilot, and explorer. Although flights to Antarctica are common, what sets this one apart is the Airbus A340 landing in the ice-covered region. Notably, there is no airport in Antarctica, but there are 50 landing strips and runaways across the White Continent. South Africa and Australia are the only two countries that take a keen interest in the white region. Earlier, in 2020, the Russian Antarctic research station organized a half-dozen trial flights to their 3,000-foot blue ice runway, carried out by wide-body aircraft as well. Since a majority of people reach the White Continent via ship, the A340 landing on an ice runaway is one of the most interesting and new operations, which is likely to attract more such landings in the coming days.