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Hi Fly details pioneering A340 flight to Antarctic runway

Wet-lease operator Hi Fly has detailed its landing of an Airbus A340-300 on an Antarctic ice runway, the first time the four-engined type has carried out such an operation. ( More...

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Colin Seftel 16
Video here:
hal pushpak 2
Pretty cool! Thanks!
Tim Dyck 1
Thanks for the link
bentwing60 1
Very 'cool' video and airplane, and if they had any ATC folks down there one might have said "braking action poor".
cyberjet 2
Except for the fact that it wasn’t poor at all.
nspowell 15
Having 9 trips to South Pole supporting the US Antarctic Program in the early 2000s with stops in McMurdo, a few thoughts:

Had Flights to/from the ice between Christchurch and McMurdo on LC-130 (ski-equipped NY ANG), C-130, C-141, C-17, and a return trip on an Australian A319 (1st class seating with windows and FAs - a luxury!. All travel to/from South Pole were on LC-130. Intercontinental flight times ranged from 5 to 8.5 hours (Jet vs C-130, LC-130 was the worst packed in there like sardines for 8.5 hours. C-141s were marginally better from a comfort perspective, the advantage was a shorter trip. Flights to South Pole took 3 hours. FL was 220 to 290 depending weather and direction. At one point they had a PAR at Pole, but that was before my time. As I recall there is a GPS approach. The runway at South Pole is snow packed (not a true ice runway), that requires periodic grooming for ski equipped aircraft, mainly LC-130 and Basslers. On a busy day there would be 5 LC-130 arrivals. Engines were kept turning while offloading/onloading cargo and pax.

I recall one trip looking down on the waves on the Southern Ocean, they were enormous, those early explorers making the crossing in wooden boats were incredibly brave. One of the problems at McMurdo is the katabatic wind. It can be ferocious over 100 kts. We think there might have been an instance where it exceeded 150kts since radomes at the Black Island Telecommunication Facility were damaged. They were rated for 150 kt+.

All in all an interesting experience and I didn't pay $96k for the pleasure of a South Pole visit.
alex hidveghy 4
Great description! I never quite got that far south, but I did fly in a RNZAF Orion fishery protection aircraft to the Auckland Islands (?), half way between the southern tip of NZ and Antarctic for 12 hours!
Ah, katabatic winds! The cousin of anabatic winds! I knew that geography degree and multiple pilot exams would come in useful one day!!👍😂
nspowell 2
A few other tidbits, its not very windy at South Pole. I believe the peak wind gust was 52 kts. However there is a prevailing wind direction. Higher terrain is to the grid Northeast (towards a longitude of 45 degrees). Consequently its common for wind to flow from that direction. A "downslope" wind if you will.

Also, earth's rotation and centrifugal force on the atmosphere at the equator pulling it away from earth has the peculiar effect of increasing the pressure altitude. This rotational effect creates a lower pressure than a similar altitude at mid latitudes. The geographic elevation is ~9300 feet (2835m) of which all is ice except about about 25 feet of dirt at the bottom. The pressure altitude can vary widely, typically ranging between 10000 to 12000 feet. Altitude sickness is not uncommon. It would take me about 2 weeks to really adjust, diamox was used and helped considerably, particularly with sleeping.

GPS works really well there, all those MEO satellites converging over the pole results in very accurate readings. I took my receiver to the Pole (it actually moves about 30 feet a year, well the ice is really moving). And bingo 90S. The longitude was going crazy though. However, 10 feet away from the pole and it was stable.
Matt West 8

Also an interesting article
Ivan Blakely 5
HiFly livery is perfect for disappearing in a snowstorm.
alex hidveghy 2
Whiteout is the official term and it can be dangerous. Some 30 years ago a NZ tourist DC-10 flight crashed in to the side of Mt. Erebus because of the optical illusion of whiteout and no true horizon to depict……
Ivan Blakely 1
it was intended as a little joke,
and of course you are right the whiteout illusion is dangerous.
A very interesting story. I'm surprised that they were not limited by MAX certified landing weight on arrival in Antarctica. They still had on board the massive weight of fuel needed to safely fly 2500 NM (plus reserves) all the way back up to Capetown, plus of course all the weight of freight on board that they were bringing into the frozen continent.
Bayouflier 4
Hey Chris, shhhhhh
Colin Seftel 1
They landed at the specified maximum of 190 tons.
Roy Hunte 1
Maybe because the A340 has 12 wheels?🤷🏼‍♂️
Colin Seftel 4
The choice of aircraft was limited because this route can't be flown by a twin-jet, due to ETOPS rules.
N107Sugar 2
IcelandAir B767 and B757’s have previously made trips to Antarctica with their 2 engines and landed safely on the ice runway.
HiFly has a great PR company making it sound like they’ve achieved some incredible feat. Yawn
Colin Seftel 2
You are right Rick! Here's the youtube link for the 767 flight in February:
The 767 has a 120 minute ETOPS rating, the flight from Cape Town to Troll was 5 hours 43 minutes and to my knowledge there is nowhere else to land en route. How were they able to do this?
bentwing60 0
UUmmm, Roy, do a little homework. The reason large, heavy and super heavies have a high wheel-tire count is because without them the max weight per axle would exceed the weight bearing limits of the runways, taxiways and ramps virtually everywhere they operate.
Just saw this event on YT, is there a flight tracking link saved for viewing? I'd like to see it. Thanks in advance.
twschmidt4 1
So, without ground support equipment, the engines are not shut down?
Colin Seftel 1
If you look at the photos in the news article, you can see that there is some ground support including stairs and cargo handling equipment. The engines must have been shut down or it wouldn't have been safe to handle cargo from the aft door.
twschmidt4 1
alex hidveghy 0
That’s not the reason the engines are not shut down……..
Bill Butler 2
That's not a very satisfactory reply. If you have some real info, why not share it? Unless you feel superior that you know something we don't.
Frosty1025 1
Congratulations! I am sure there where many other people behind the scenes that contributed to this great mission. They should all be proud of making it look so easy. The crew looked so relaxed, but am sure they are so proud and lucky to have had the opportunity to fly it.
linuxranch 1
I suspect the reason you could not fly a 747 would be lack of ground support.. things like stairs.

The very high eye height would make landing a challenge.
alex hidveghy 1
Wouldn’t you need airstairs for any aircraft, wide body or narrow??……A340 is also a heavy and stands quite high.
linuxranch 1
The less tall aircraft have on board air stairs..

I've been surprised at how tall the stairs they have had as options on airbus AC.

Unless you are willing to deal with folding/collapsing stairs, they can't be any taller than the cabin is wide.
I watched the video on YouTube. Interesting that the cockpit crew all seemed to be Captains. They must have had a nicely heated cockpit to land in Antarctica wearing short-sleeved shirts.
Joe Vasta 0
I was in the airline business many years ago Not pilot or crew
Would a 747-400 do the same thing?
My favorite airplane
21voyageur 1
With a combi config, I can not see a reason why not other than business and safety drivers.


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