I love flying, traveling around the world, taking airplane pictures and aircraft modeling.
In 2019, a pre-COVID year, I got the chance to get on-board an Antarctica flight operated by Qantas, which was something that had been on my bucket list for quite some time. Before the COVID pandemic, Qantas operated several Antarctica Flights from Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide etc which were all being served by the Boeing 747-400.
Depending on the origin, the flight route can be a bit different; but I decided to join the tour in November from Adelaide.
At the time, tickets were on sale for four classes, Ice (First), Business, Premium Economy and Economy class. Business and Premium Economy were separated into window or isle, while Economy was separated into three variants: window, middle or isle. There was a unique rule in place which dictates that seats must be changed halfway through the flight. As a result of this rule, most of the passengers would get the chance to see outside; even if you were sat in the middle or isle, you would get to walk around during this sightseeing flight. Therefore I choose a middle seat.
The total flight duration is more than 12 hours. Unfortunately, we no longer get many opportunities to fly on a B747 for more than 12 hours nowadays.
The adventure started from the Adelaide airport. All passengers were requested to arrive at the boarding gate by 07:15. I couldn't sleep well that night because I was so excited!
After I had passed through the security check, I saw my Queen of the Skies in pride of place at the front of the terminal and resting nonchalantly under the sunrise. At that time, Australian airport's allowed people to pass through the security area without needing a boarding pass; so many avgeeks were also there to see the B747, which was and still is a rare aircraft in Adelaide.
I went to the special check in counter in front of the boarding gate to get a brochure, boarding pass and a lanyard. Luckily, I got an exit row seat that doesn't have a window. Normally this would be a bad thing, however from my seat I was able to see outside via the door window; this meant that, due to me being in a middle seat, I would not need to change with anybody during the flight!
I admired the shiny Queen of the Skies while we were boarding. When I arrived at my seat it was already filled up with many documents regarding the history of Antarctica and Australian surveillance history.
QF2905 flight was off block at 08:33 and proceeded to runway 05. Many avgeeks took pictures from the spotting location as we departed. After we were airborne, we turned left and headed out to Antarctica's Australian territory. It took around four hours, with the cabin crew serving international meals while we were on-route.
Once we were on approach to Antarctica, the captain descended to 8000ft. As we approached Antarctica, I could spot many icebergs which were shining brilliantly; so much so that we had to wear sunglasses even while we are up in the air! Just over Casey station, which is located on the coast line, the captain started his manoeuvres to the left, the right and back to the left to show the sights to passengers on both sides of the plane.
Until I saw Antarctica with my own eyes, I believed that there would be an all white landscape covered only by snow and ice; however, the actual view was not only just white. There are some rocks, mountains and also ice but these are not only white, they are a beautiful light blue or emerald green. I will never forget those views!
We were up in Antarctica for around four hours. Of course all the passengers walked around in the cabin to take in the view, taking pictures and talking with other passengers. I also will never forget the second meal and Australian wines served over Antarctica!
An Antarctica specialist and surveillance team member was also on-board. They explained a lot of the information about Antarctica and shared remarkable stories through the PA system. Everyone could hear it over the PA system, which only enhanced the beautiful views.
I could also observe "Wilkins Runway" (ICAO: YWKS) from the air. The blue ice runway was well maintained and some snow removers were working to remove the snow. Probably Kenn Borek Air's BT-67 was waiting for the next mission.
After the observation flight, our B747 climbed up to the high flight level for the return trip to Adelaide. In the cabin, Antarctica related auctions were being conducted. One of the Australian surveillance team members showed off the actual cold protection she used while working in Antarctica. Limited edition souvenirs were also available for sale on the flight. I really enjoyed these events as well.
Just passed 10 hours in and I could see the beautiful sunset from the air. I have always loved this view, with 2 engines and a winglet on display. Dinner was served, the third meal in this flight, then the Queen of the Skies descended to Adelaide and touched down at 21:00.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, Qantas have now retired the Queen, which means that there will no longer be the option for people to enjoy this experience on the B747. In replacement, Qantas now flies a Boeing 787 on this Antarctica flight.