By Charlotte Seet
Hi Fly Peforms Successful Airbus A340 Antarctica Mission
Antarctica is a land of ice and snow located at the bottom of the globe, featuring remote wilderness that’s only accessible by air or sea.
While flying is a commonly used form of transportation that is convenient, there are currently no scheduled flights to Antarctica as only chartered flights are available, mainly due to its harsh and unpredictable weather, making air travel more challenging than usual.
Challenging is definitely not impossible, because, for the first time ever in history, an Airbus A340-300 managed to land on Antarctica.
This historic flight was operated by Lisbon-based Hi Fly — a charter airline — who specializes in wet leases by hiring out both aircraft and aircrew, handling logistics such as insurance and maintenance.
Having been commissioned by Wolf’s Fang — an upscale adventure camp project from White Desert, the high-end Antarctica tourism company — the flight helped to bring in essential supplies to the adventure resort all the way from Cape Town, South Africa.
Usually, White Desert deploys the Gulfstream 550 for its operations. The small business jet allows for passenger comfort and reliability in harsh weather conditions, but it does not provide much space. As a result, the company looked at adding on a widebody aircraft, particularly the A340 due to the quadjet’s bigger capacity that would allow a wider range of transportation of both human and cargo.
The A340 might get to join the small fleet in the next year or so, as it continues to be a reliable and comfortable aircraft with the perfect range and engine redundancies for such remote operations, as shown in the relative success of Hi Fly’s Antarctic mission.
On November 2, HFM801 departed from Cape Town to Antarctica and was skillfully piloted by Hi Fly’s Vice President, Captain Carlos Mirpuri and his crew. The flight was operated by a 19-year-old A340-300 registered as 9H-SOL. The return flight to Cape Town was operated as HFM802.
Having been with Hi Fly since 2018, the quad-jet was originally configured with 35 Business Class and 218 Economy Class, but has since been specially re-configured with 24 passengers seats and plenty of cargo space, earning the nickname of the “preighter”.
Wolf’s Fang Runway was the designated C-Level airport that has a blue-ice runway, meaning that only highly specialized and skilled crew can fly there with such challenging conditions present. As noted in his captain’s log, Mirpuri explained that “the cooler it is the better” for such a heavy aircraft like the A340.
Mirpuri added, “It is not easy to spot the runway, but at one point we have to see it, as absolutely no navigation aids exist in WFR and from around 20 miles we must be in visual contact,” to further elaborate on just how daunting flying to Antarctica was,
Mirpuri pointed out that “the altimeters in cold weather also suffer from temperature errors, and need adjustments,” in regards to extremely cold temperatures, which is essential to keep in mind.
Eventually, Mirpuri joyfully notes that the landing and later take-off was successfully uneventful as per the textbook, as well as that the turnaround time was much faster than expected, showcasing that this mission to Antarctica was indeed a success.