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Incredible moment pilot becomes the first to land an Airbus A340 on ANTARCTICA


Incredible moment pilot becomes the first to land an Airbus A340 on ANTARCTICA

  • Plane touched down on icy runway Tuesday after 2,800-mile journey taking five hours from Cape Town
  • It was chartered by luxury travel outfit Wolf’s Fang to bring much-needed supplies to their tourist resort
  • Grooves are carved into the 10,000ft runway to give the plane better grip – the colder it is the better
  • The blue glacial ice is almost a mile thick and can withstand a fully-laden A340 with no problems
  • Pilot said the biggest difficulty is the glare from the ice and the lack of the usual runway guidance 

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This is the incredible moment a pilot became the first to land an Airbus A340 on Antartica.

The cargo jet was chartered by Wolf’s Fang, a new luxury holiday camp at the South Pole, to bring supplies to their tourist resort.

The plane touched down on the icy runway on Tuesday after a 2,800-mile journey taking just over five hours from Cape Town.

The runway at the Wolf Fang resort is designated a C Level airport, meaning that only a highly specialised crew of pilots can fly there due to the extreme conditions.

‘The cooler it is the better,’ said Captain Carlos Mipuri of specialist airline Hi Fly.

Grooves are carved into the 10,000ft runway and a specially-equipped car covers the length of the strip to check how icy the track is before the jet arrives.

The blue glacial ice is almost a mile thick and can withstand a fully-laden A340 with no problems.

But one of the greatest hazards is the glare off the snow and ice.

The plane touched down on the icy runway on Tuesday after a 2,800-mile journey taking just over five hours from Cape Town

The plane touched down on the icy runway on Tuesday after a 2,800-mile journey taking just over five hours from Cape Town

The plane touched down on the icy runway after a 2,800-mile journey taking just over five hours from Cape Town. The cargo jet was chartered by Wolf's Fang, a new luxury holiday camp at the South Pole, to bring supplies to the tourist resort.

The plane touched down on the icy runway after a 2,800-mile journey taking just over five hours from Cape Town. The cargo jet was chartered by Wolf’s Fang, a new luxury holiday camp at the South Pole, to bring supplies to the tourist resort.

Grooves are carved into the 10,000ft runway and a specially-equipped car covers the length of the strip before the jet arrives to report on how icy the track is

Grooves are carved into the 10,000ft runway and a specially-equipped car covers the length of the strip before the jet arrives to report on how icy the track is

The blue glacial ice is almost a mile thick and can withstand a fully-laden A340 with no problems

The blue glacial ice is almost a mile thick and can withstand a fully-laden A340 with no problems

The approach into the runway. The pilot said: 'There is also no visual glide slope guidance, and the blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least'

The approach into the runway. The pilot said: ‘There is also no visual glide slope guidance, and the blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least’

Grooves are carved into the runway to give the jet better grip

Grooves are carved into the runway to give the jet better grip

The plane is seen coming into land as tents stand at a camp in the South Pole

The plane is seen coming into land as tents stand at a camp in the South Pole

‘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,’ Mipuri said.

‘There is also no visual glide slope guidance, and the blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least.’

The pilot added: ‘The altimeters in cold weather also suffer from temperature errors, and need adjustments.’

But Mipuri said they ‘flew a textbook approach’ and the landing passed off without any issues.

He said of the A340: ‘It is an airplane that delivers, every time. Robust, comfortable and safe, performs well in this environment.’

The first ever flight to Antartica was a Lockheed Vega 1 monoplane in 1928, piloted by George Hubert Wilkins, an Australian military pilot and explorer.

The crew holds up a banner to celebrate their record-making achievement after landing on Tuesday

The crew holds up a banner to celebrate their record-making achievement after landing on Tuesday

Mipuri said they 'flew a textbook approach' and the landing passed off without any issues.

Mipuri said they ‘flew a textbook approach’ and the landing passed off without any issues.

The pilot said of the A340: 'It is an airplane that delivers, every time. Robust, comfortable and safe, performs well in this environment'

The pilot said of the A340: ‘It is an airplane that delivers, every time. Robust, comfortable and safe, performs well in this environment’

The plane remained on the ground for a couple of hours before returning to Cape Town

The plane remained on the ground for a couple of hours before returning to Cape Town

Snow is kicked up off the ground as the massive jet arrives in Antartica

Snow is kicked up off the ground as the massive jet arrives in Antartica

His journey was markedly shorter than that of the A340, taking off from the South Shetland Islands, a group of Antartic islands just 70 miles from the mainland.

The project was backed by US publishing tycoon William Randoplh Hearst.

It was short reconaissance flights like these which provided great advances in mapping out Antartica.

Antartica is still without any airports to this day, but there are around 50 runways on the continent used by researchers and other visitors.



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