On November 2nd and November 4th, a Hi Fly Airbus A340-300 operated two trips to Antarctica from Cape Town, South Africa. While details of the quadjet’s mission are scarce, it is believed that the aircraft was flown in to bring more fuel and supplies directly to research camps located on the southern continent.
While we’ve already reported on a Hi Fly A340 conducting a long-distance flight over Antarctica, its latest mission actually takes the quadjet down to the continent.
According to flight-tracking service RadarBox.com, the Hi Fly A340-300 registered as 9H-SOL, departed its home base at Beja (Portugal) on October 30th. This four-engined behemoth, designed for and well-experienced with long-haul operations, made its way to Cape Town in a single flight. Departing Beja at 11:24 local and arriving in Cape Town at 22:25, the trans-equatorial flight took 10 hours.
For two whole days (October 31st and November 1st), the aircraft remained in Cape Town. If we are under the presumption that the A340 was on a resupply mission, then it’s likely that the quadjet was loaded up at this airport for its south pole mission.
Unfortunately, flight tracking data becomes scarce and vague when it comes to Antarctic operations. However, we do know that the aircraft made two trips to the continent- one on November 2nd and another on November 4th.
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White Desert’s A340 plan
Simple Flying recently had the opportunity to speak with White Desert CEO Patrick Woodhead about his company’s missions to Antarctica. This company uses a Gulfstream G550 for luxury expeditions. However, during the interview, Woodhead noted that an Airbus A340 was part of its Antarctic operations plan, saying:
“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.“
After scanning social media and the websites of White Desert and Hi Fly, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the luxury expedition firm and Hi Fly’s recent A340 mission- even if Mr Woodhead’s remarks align perfectly with the events of this past week. Nonetheless, Simple Flying has reached out to Hi Fly to inquire about the journey of 9H-SOL. Hopefully, we will hear back and have some details to share.
— MarkyMark (@Fiicaan) April 14, 2021
Other big jets on the continent
Large jets in Antarctica aren’t an entirely new thing. Let’s look at some of several other examples:
- On the smaller side, March of 2020 saw an Airbus A319 sent to Antarctica on an emergency medical mission. The aircraft was flown by the Australian Antarctic Division and arrived at the McMurdo base with a capable staff unit. Onboard were medical and aeromedical teams and a specialist retrieval unit.
- About a year later, an Icelandair-owned Boeing 767-300ER was tasked with bringing home researchers who had been working at the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Troll Research Station. Onboard was a crew of 20, consisting of six pilots, 13 flight attendants, and one mechanic. Just like our recent A340 trip, the 767 took off from Cape Town for its Antarctic mission.
- Proving that quad jets have been on the continent before, Volga-Dnepr Airlines operated a series of IL-76 flights to Antarctica as part of the DROMLAN International Antarctic project. Like other flights, these missions began in Cape Town, with the aircraft dispatched to the Novolazarevskaya runway in Antarctica. A total of 200 tons of general cargo was delivered to the research stations on the continent.
— Norsk Polarinstitutt // Norwegian Polar Institute (@NorskPolar) March 1, 2021
The landing of an A340 in Antarctica would undoubtedly be a sight to behold.
What are your thoughts on these flights? Let us know by leaving a comment.