Icelandair Boeing 757 makes trip to Antarctica and lands on ice runway

Commercial flights to Antarctica may be one step closer after an Icelandic airline and an expedition company landed a commercial Boeing 757 passenger plane on a blue-ice runway.

A commercial passenger plane has landed at Union Glacier in Antarctica.

A commercial passenger plane has landed at Union Glacier in Antarctica. Image by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions

The flight touched down at Union Glacier on 26 November and was done to prove that commercial passenger planes could land on the packed-ice runway, according to a statement from expedition support company Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), which operates the Union Glacier camp.

The flight was a partnership between ALE, Icelandair and air-freight company NAS Corporation Limited.

Right now, flights for passengers and cargo to the Union Glacier camp are made with aircrafts that are tested for use in polar conditions and on ice – such as military and cargo planes.

But the new efforts to bring in commercial planes could open the polar destination up to more visitors.

ALE currently brings about 400 to 500 visitors to Antarctica a year; many of whom head to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson, go to the South Pole or see an emperor penguin colony on the Weddell Sea coast.

A commercial passenger plane has landed at Union Glacier in Antarctica.

A commercial passenger plane has landed at Union Glacier in Antarctica. Image by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions

The company says it is researching the use of conventional airliners like the Boeing 757-200 ER, which has 62 business class seats, in order to enhance passenger comfort.

Union Glacier camp is only accessible by a 4.5 hour flight from Chile.

While the world’s southernmost continent has not yet opened up to tourism, Antarctica has already seen some landmark flights into the country.

The Australian government’s Antarctic division landed an Airbus at Casey on a blue ice runway in 2008. In 2009, The Royal New Zealand Air Force landed a Boeing 757 on ice at McMurdo Sound.

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