Most trips abroad are cool, but Icelandair just completed what has to be the coolest trip ever – taking off from Cape Town, South Africa, and landing on a freezing cold ice shelf in Antarctica! Watch below to see the unique and beautiful footage as the plane touched down in Dronning Maud Land.
The airline said: “We usually fly closer to home, near the Arctic Circle, but this flight was even cooler: On Friday, February 26, an Icelandair Boeing 767 (TF-ISN), landed at Troll airfield (QAT) at the Troll research station operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica.”
The charter flight on a Boeing 767 (operated by the airline’s charter subsidiary Loftleiðir) was on a mission to drop off supplies, and pick up some of the research station’s scientists to fly them home to Norway. The journey involved MONTHS of preparation. It required meticulous planning to land safely due to the unique conditions! Six pilots were involved, along with 13 (very excited) crew members and one flight engineer.
The plane flew nonstop to Cape Town where it refuelled before making the 4,332km trip south to Troll in 5 hours and 43 minutes, according to Icelandair on their website. There was a two-hour layover in Antarctica before the plane returned to Cape Town.
The entire adventure lasted four days as the aeroplane flew from Iceland to Cape Town, then to Antartica, back to Cape Town to pick up staff who’d been left there to rest, and then to Oslo, Norway (to the relief of many of the experts who’d been at Troll for over 16 months) and finally home to Iceland. The flight route was closely watched by over 30,000 aviation fans on Flightradar! Fortunately conditions in Antartica were better than expected (although there was a last-minute hole in the ice that needed repairing), and the worst part of the trip was the return to Iceland.
WATCH VIDEO Icelandair flies to Antarctica: Boeing 767 lands at Troll airfield (QAT)
“We truly admire the team that created the runway out of ice!” Icelandair said on Facebook.
Icelandair has landed on the unique runway before – back in 2015 when it became the first commercial airline to do so.
Co-Pilot Bjartmar Örn Arnarson explains how this runway on the blue ice, built by the Norwegians, is special because of its strength and structural nature.
“It has been beaten down with constant hurricane-force wind that has squeezed the air bubbles out of the ice, and it appears deep blue. And because of its solidness it can hold a massive airplane as the B767 and is really smooth,” Arnarson wrote in his logbook.
He described his first glimpse of Antartica four hours after taking off from Cape Town. “The cloud base cleared in the direction of the ice shelf and we got a glimpse of Dronning Maud Land. The icebergs breaking constantly off from the mainland of ice and snow that covers this massive ice-bound continent.
“From our flight-deck seats we could see the vertical 30-40 meter high ice wall that marks the beginning of solid ice leading inland to the Troll station some 250km from the edge. Contacted Johannesburg for descent out of controlled airspace and into the Antarctic, land of few people and little life but magnificent nature of desolation and untouched wasteland,” he wrote.
He said the landing was great and smooth, and they received a very warm welcome from the Norwegian crew. “It was a pure pleasure to see the close-knit group of various talents in high spirits after many months of research and specialized work,” said the co-pilot.