Hi Fly is once again back to Antarctica, with Airbus A340 9H-TQZ flying today from Cape Town to Wolf’s Fang Runway and back.
The journey is 2,500 nautical miles, flying for just over five hours each way. The aircraft will be used this season to fly a small number of tourists, alongside scientists and essential cargo to the White Continent.
Hi Fly’s staff onboard the first flight of the season described the experience as spectacular and special. The weather conditions were favourable, allowing for a successful landing despite adverse winds the previous week and the arrival on blue ice, visible through the window amidst the predominantly white landscape, added to the excitement.
A vital aspect of the operation is the preparation of the runway, a challenging task due to the unique conditions of the Antarctic environment.
Blue Ice runways require specialised techniques to ensure aircraft operations and areas free from an accumulation of snow where the hard compacted ice is dense and capable of supporting the heavy weight of wheeled aircraft.
As a result of the low friction coefficient of blue ice, runways are typically several kilometres long to provide adequate stopping distance. For instance, the Wolf’s Fang Runway measures 3,000 meters (8,200 feet) in length and 60 meters (196 feet) in width. In addition, wheeled aircraft will use reverse thrust to slow instead of the more usual system of wheels breaking to stop.
In 2021 Hi Fly landed the first ever Airbus widebody in Antarctica in a historical flight, repeating the operation in 2022 and now in 2023.
The aircraft in use for this operation, an Airbus A340-300, holds the record for the biggest airliner to ever operate in Antarctica.
Length : 63,69m
Span: 60,3 m
MTOW: 275 Tons
Max seat capacity (exit Limit): 440 pax
ULD capacity: 11 ULD
The A340 can carry enough to go and come back from Capetown, as no fuel available in WFR.
More about Hi Fly’s first flight to Antarctica here