On Dec 8th, I boarded a Hi Fly A340-300 chartered for White Desert Antarctica (Tour Operator) to fly to the seventh continent; Antarctica.
I joined the one-day tour to Antarctica called "The Greatest Day".
The Trip to Antarctica
The flight time from Cape Town to Wolf’s Fang Runway in Antarctica was 5 hours and 15 minutes.
We were flying from 33 degrees South to 71 degrees South in latitude.
Commander Carlos Mirpuri of Hi Fly explained the Antarctic flight operating conditions and requirements.
It requires visual weather conditions with less than 15-20 knots of crosswind. But most importantly, the temperature cannot be too warm as the ice is melting makes landing conditions slippery. The ice runway needs to maintain sufficient friction for the airplane to brake during landing.
The A340-300, 9H-TQZ, was ex Emirates as you can tell from the interiors. It has 3 class layout with 12 First Class, 42 Business Class, and 213 Economy Class seats. We took off from Cape Town with about 40 passengers around 4:30 pm local time at Cape Town.
The flight ops created one waypoint every 5 degrees South in latitude. Flight time was 5 hours and 15 minutes.
During the flight, dinner was served with full-bar drinks.
The Antarctica season is from mid-November to early February every year.
During the flight, the founder of White Desert Antarctica Patrick explained what to expect in Antarctica in my video.
White Desert offers both 1-day tour and 5-7 day tour itineraries.
We started to see some icebergs before reaching the coast of Antarctica.
As we flew closer to Antarctica, passengers changed into Antarctic clothing and got ready for the exploration.
The weather conditions were good with clear visibility for the landing at Wolf’s Fang runway.
The runway friction index was also sufficient to allow the airplane to stop during braking.
Our A340 landed at Wolf’s Fang Runway 17 (71º 32’ 00” S 8º 50’ 00” E) around 1930 UTC time. According to the pilot, we had some tail wind until 500 feet, then some cross wind from 090 degrees.
I was lucky enough to observe the Antarctic landing from the jumpseat. Watch the landing in my video.
The runway length is 3,000m and 60m wide. Wolf’s Fang Runway is operated by White Desert Antarctica and it’s the only blue ice runway. It takes 22 hours to groom and prepare the runway for every jet landing.
After landing, we were transported by 4x4 to climb a nearby Nunatak (small mountain) and were just amazed at the pristine landscape; the white desert!
Interestingly, the sun never set during the Antarctic summer. The photo was taken around 10pm UTC time. (12am Cape Town)
I also visited the newly opened Echo Camp for refreshments before the flight back. It was a productive 3 hours in Antarctica and getting a taste of the most remote continent. Certainly one of "The Greatest Day" in my aviation and travel memory!
We got back at the A340 and took off around 2230 UTC time. It was still daylight!
I hope you enjoy the trip together with me. Next year, I am looking to lead a private trip to Antarctica to relive the experience again.
For more information on the Antarctica tour, visit white-desert.com
White Desert operates two Basler BT-67 (Turbo DC-3) in Antarctica taking tourists to the Geographical South Pole (90 degree South). This is on their 5-7 day itineraries.