Passengers Will Spend 4 Hours Over The Antarctic Ice
A Qantas Airbus A380 super jumbo will undertake a unique
sightseeing flight to Antarctica - the first commercial flight by
an A380 over the south polar region, and the only aircraft
permitted to do so on New Year's Eve.
The flight, organized by Melbourne-based Antarctica Sightseeing
Flights, a division of Australian travel company Croydon Travel,
will originate in Sydney and fly via Melbourne to reach
Antarctica. Passengers will be over the "ice" at midnight and
be the first in the world to see the light of the new year.
The chartered A380 will fly figure-eight patterns above the
breathtaking polar terrain for up to four hours before heading back
to Melbourne and Sydney.
Two other Antarctic flights are also planned for the southern
summer - a second A380 service direct from Sydney on 24 January and
a Boeing 747-400 from Melbourne on Valentine's Day, 14 February.
All flights are operated by senior Qantas pilots, with the captain
in command having previously operated Antarctica sightseeing
The New Year's Eve flight to Antarctica will be under the
command of Captain John Dennis, who has flown 40 of the 85
previous Boeing 747 flights to the ice. He will be accompanied by
two other senior pilots for the inaugural A380 journey.
"Antarctica is the world's coldest, driest and windiest
continent, and the fastest, most comfortable way to view it is from
the air, which maximizes viewing but leaves not a single
footprint," said Antarctica flights founder Phil Asker, whose
company has operated 85 Antarctic flights from Australia since
1994, all with Boeing 747 aircraft chartered from Qantas. "Not only
will we offer the unique opportunity for New Year's Eve travellers
to farewell 2009 and welcome 2010 flying low and slow over the
breathtaking Antarctic landscape - we will offer the bonus
opportunity to make aviation history aboard the first commercial
flight by an A380 to the south polar region," he said.
Antarctica sightseeing flights do not land in Antarctica. On a
typical flight, the first icebergs are seen approximately three
hours after passing over Hobart. The most frequently-used route
then takes the aircraft over the polar icecap, the South Magnetic
Pole, the French scientific base at Dumont d'Urville, rugged
coastal cliffs, massive glaciers and finally the spectacular
Trans-Antarctic Range before returning to Australia.
On board, experts deliver commentary and stories of their own
experiences in Antarctica, and stroll through the cabin throughout
the flight to speak to passengers. Videos are shown about Antarctic
life and history and a camera on the flight deck gives passengers a
pilot's eye view, via the cabin entertainment screens, of takeoff
and landing in Australia and of the polar landscape ahead. There is
even a jazz band moving through the cabin during the New Year's Eve
The inaugural A380 sightseeing flight from Melbourne to
Antarctica on New Year's Eve will take about 11 and a half hours
and cover some 5,900 miles, including up to four hours above the
Antarctic terrain. Sydney direct flights to Antarctica take about
an hour longer.
Under strictly controlled conditions, the aircraft can descend
to a minimum of 10,000 feet above sea level or 2,000 feet above the
highest terrain within 110 miles. At all times, the aircraft is in
contact with the Qantas operations center in Sydney, and with air
traffic controllers in both Australia or the US research base at
McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.
Approval has been secured for 19 Antarctica flight routes, with
final selection based upon weather details obtained immediately
before departure from Australia. During the flight, the captain in
command can request a change of course to maximize viewing
Strict environmental guidelines apply for sightseeing flights over
Antarctica. The A380 is the largest and greenest passenger aircraft
in service today, achieving up to 10 per cent greater fuel
efficiency than other large airliners. Antarctica Sightseeing
Flights offsets the carbon emissions caused by its office
activities and by staff flights. Passengers are also able to
offset the carbon emissions caused by their Antarctica flight.