A team of scientists broke new ground when a plane capable of carrying more than 300 passengers landed in Antarctica, with aviators hailing it as a world first.
The plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, successfully slipped down in Troll airfield on Wednesday night, while basking in Antarctica’s all-day summer sunlight.
Carrying a 45-strong team made up of researchers and staff from the Norwegian Polar Institute, the organisation said they managed to bring 12 tonnes of research equipment.
“This is a major operation, and a milestone for air traffic to Queen Maud Land,” said the institute’s director, Camilla Brekke, referring to the location of their research station.
“Taking down such a large aircraft opens up completely new possibilities for the logistics of Troll, which will also contribute to strengthening Norwegian research in Antarctica.”
Troll airfield is a 3,000-metre-long strip of blue ice and operates only between October and March, before winter sets the sun for nearly half a year.
While the landing has been hailed as a landmark achievement, there is no indication that commercial flights are planned, as the institute focuses on improved logistics to boost its research.
The group says it arranges up to 10 crafts of varying sizes to the continent each year, but the possibility of flying far larger planes could reduce the number of trips needed.
“The most important thing is the environmental benefits we can achieve by using large and modern aircraft of this type for Troll,” Ms Brekke said.
“This can help to reduce total emissions and the environmental footprint in Antarctica.”
The institute’s logistics director, John Guldahl, said there were passengers from several countries onboard headed for other stations, which he says opens up the chances of collaboration.
Norse Atlantic Airways, the airline behind the flight, said in a statement the company is “honoured” to have been part of the trip.
“A historic moment for Norse,” the airline said. “The first ever B787 Dreamliner to land in Antarctica! We are incredibly honoured to be part of this piece of history, marking a very special milestone for Norse.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Norwegian Polar Research Institute who entrusted us with this important flight.”