Widebody Adventures: Could The A340 Find A New Home In Antarctica?

Between the months of November and January, White Desert operates luxury expeditions to Antarctica. Yesterday, we shared details on why the Gulfstream 550 is an excellent tool for the British company’s tours to the largest desert in the world. However, the Airbus A340 could soon be an addition to the operator’s services.

Airbus A340
The Airbus A340 has been relied upon on long-haul missions across the globe for nearly three decades, and it could find a new role before the year is over: Photo: Airbus

Small to big

Simple Flying recently had the opportunity to speak with White Desert CEO Patrick Woodhead about how his company prepares its operations to Antarctica. To reach the firm’s runway in Wolf’s Fang, Queen Maud Land, 12 passengers hop on board the G550. This plane is chosen for its balance of comfort, efficiency, reliability, and safety.

Even though it is a trusted option around the world in different markets, the G550 is a small-sized business jet. Yet, it could be joined by the behemoth Airbus A340 in the coming months. With many factors to consider, from the handling of supplies to the transportation of visitors, the quadjet would be a useful addition to the team.

“For 2021, we are looking to add a widebody – an Airbus A340 – which will move cargo and scientists to their research stations,” Woodhead told Simple Flying.

“Sharing our aircraft with both scientists and visitors assists in delivering scientists to their research bases more efficiently, thereby reducing environmental impact.

White Desert Camp
White Desert offers a range of packages, including the opportunity for travelers to see emperor penguins and the South Pole. Photo: White Desert

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Wider initiatives

Speaking of the environment, White Desert notes that its logistics are always evolving. Thus, this year, as opposed to just off-setting its emissions, the company is bringing in a test quantity of 40,000 liters of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to further reduce environmental impact.

All of Airbus’ aircraft are certified to fly with up to a 50% SAF blend. This figure is set to be scaled up to 100% by the time the 2030s roll around.

Woodhead adds that the A340 has a large cargo capacity and range along with four engines, making it an incredibly reliable aircraft. Aside from transporting people and cargo, the company will also be able to deliver fuel directly to the runway.

Altogether, White Desert feels that this approach is far more efficient than delivering fuel via ship and traversing. The firm can reduce its overall consumption of fuel by almost 20%.

White Desert 2019/2020 season
Along with the G550, White Desert uses the DC-3 and DHC-6 in Antarctica. Photo: White Desert

A beast heading south?

The A340 isn’t a stranger to flying over Earth’s southernmost continent. For instance, in April 2020, a Hi Fly A340-300 conducted a repatriation flight from Montevideo to Melbourne over Antarctica.

Ultimately, landing in Antarctica is a sensitive operation. This is something that White Desert is well aware of and takes plenty of care with its landing processes, always constantly monitoring and resurveying its 3 km (1.9 mi) long blue ice runway. Therefore, it will undoubtedly be ensuring it has the right aircraft to take it into its next chapter.

What are your thoughts about White Desert’s plans to take on an Airbus A340? What do you make of the prospects of the aircraft? Let us know what you think of the operations to Antarctica in the comment section.