Airbus A340 Just Landed in Antarctica for the First Time

The Airbus A340 is a long-range, four-engine, wide-body passenger aircraft. The plane has recently made history by landing on one of the most remote airstrips in the world.

The world’s southernmost continent, Antarctica, does not have any airports. However, the ‘White Continent’ does have around 50 landing strips and runways for fixed-wing aircraft.

These runways are made of gravel, sea ice, blue ice, or compacted snow. However, the sudden weather changes experienced on the continent make it extremely challenging for any jetliner to land there.

Apart from that, a Titan Airways Boeing 767 conducted a series of six flights between Cape Town and Novolazarevskaya, a Russian Antarctic research station, from November 2019 till February 2020. The runway here is 3000 m long, made up of blue ice, according to the aviation website, Simple Flying.

Earlier this year, Titan Airways also flew its ‘all-business configured’ 757 to the same Russian Antarctic research station to carry the participants of the World Marathon Challenge. The aircraft’s landing gears were equipped with extended and modified legs to help them overcome the shock from landing on ice.

Airbus A340 Joins the Race

It was for the first time in history when an Airbus A340 has landed in Antarctica. Hi Fly, a boutique aviation firm, was responsible for this trip. The company is known for wet-lease of aircraft, which means it leases the aircraft along with its crew and is responsible for the aircraft’s insurance, maintenance, and other logistics. During this flight, a Hi Fly 801took off from Cape Town, South Africa on November 2.

The Wolf’s Fang project was founded by a US tourism company, White Desert. The aircrew of the Hi Fly 801 and the Hi Fly 802, which was used for their return trip, was led by Captain Carlos Mirpuri, who is also the Vice President of Hi Fly.

Both Hi Fly 801 and 802 took around four to five hours to cover the distance between Cape Town and Antarctica and the crew spent less than three hours in the icy region. The distance covered by them was 2500 nautical miles.

Australia and South Africa are just two of the global powers with interests in Antarctica.

As aviation website Simple Flying notes, the Russian Antarctic research station organized a half-dozen trial flights to their 3,000-foot blue ice runway between 2019 and 2020. Those were carried out by wide-body aircrafts as well.

Since the vast majority of people get to the White Continent via ship, seeing the A340 landing on an ice runway is certainly dramatic – and means there will likely be more such landings in the future.

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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.

Captain Carlos Mirpuri is the first to fly an Airbus A340 to Antarctica. - Credit: MARC BOW
Captain Carlos Mirpuri is the first to fly an Airbus A340 to Antarctica. – Credit: MARC BOW


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 signature eight-day Emperors & South Pole adventure ($78,000 per person) is the ultimate way to experience the rugged continent. After touching down at Wolf’s Fang and regrouping in one of Wichaway camp’s six luxuriously outfitted, heated fiberglass sleeping pods, guests will make a 2-hour trip up the dramatic coastline to visit a colony of 6,000 emperor penguins and their newly hatched chicks—a sight not often witnessed by humans. From there, guests will spend days trekking across glaciers and through ice caves before closing the trip with a 6-hour flight to the geographic south pole.

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