New territory for a tried and tested passenger aircraft: the four-engine Airbus A340-330 have been taking off and landing at airports on almost every continent since 1991. But never before had a crew dared to head for Antarctica with the wide-body aircraft.
Photos of the Portuguese charter airline High Fly have now been published, which was flying from Cape Town to the Wolf’s Fang Runway in Antarctica on a very special mission for an unnamed client, a runway in the eternal ice with the three-letter code WFR.
The A340-300 with four engines and the identification 9H-SOL was used from the High Fly Airbus fleet. The machine, which was delivered to the Spanish airline Iberia in 2002, was sold to High Fly Malta in 2018.
The special thing about the Antarctic flight on November 2nd was the lack of infrastructure at the destination: Instead of a concrete runway, the runway consisted of compressed snow. Instead of an instrument landing system, a tower with flight controllers, communication with the ground station was limited to just one person with an Iridium satellite phone.
Orientation in the white desert is particularly difficult on approach. “The reflection is enormous, and the right glasses will help you adjust your eyes between looking outwards and the instruments,” writes captain Carlos Mirpuri in his published log. “The copilot plays an important role in performing the usual routines and additional duties, especially in the late stages of the approach.”
The landing on the three kilometer long runway was successful. After just three hours of standing on the ground, it was back to South Africa. No new fuel was available in the wasteland. Therefore, the crew had taken additional kerosene from Cape Town, a total of 77 tons.
A few days later, the A340 took off from High Fly on another Antartika mission.
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