‘When we reached taxi speed I could hear a round of applause from the cabin. We were joyful,’ says pilot of historic flight
Operated by Hi Fly, the plane took off from Cape Town, South Africa, and landed around five hours later, having flown 2,500 nautical miles, on 2 November.
This first A340 service was put on in order to transport staff for Wolf’s Fang, an Antarctica-based luxury adventure camp, plus freight.
In future, the jet may be used to carry tourists and scientists to the southernmost continent.
Hi Fly vice-president and pilot Carlos Mirpuri said it was an “uneventful landing” but that the ice runway wasn’t easy to see.
“The reflection is tremendous, and proper eyewear helps you adjust your eyes between the outside view and the instrumentation,” he said in his captain’s log.
“The non-flying pilot has an important role in making the usual plus extra callouts, especially in the late stages of the approach.
“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.”
But everything went smoothly, and those onboard were delighted to be part of the inaugural journey, according to Mirpuri.
“When we reached taxi speed I could hear a round of applause from the cabin. We were joyful. After all we were writing history.”
He added: “Take off was uneventful, as so was the returning flight. Customer was happy, we were happy. All goals for this first flight had been met.”
Video charts the A340’s historic journey from start to finish, showing the starkly beautiful white landscape as the plane descends over Antarctica and touches down smoothly on the snow.
The jet only stayed on Antarctica for around three hours before making the return journey to Cape Town.