Air New Zealand to fly planes to Antarctica
Air New Zealand plans to fly its planes to Antarctica that would see pilots landing on an ice runway.
Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei
Wellington: Air New Zealand plans to fly its planes to Antarctica that would see pilots landing on an ice runway.
However, the chartered flights will be only for the scientists and their support crew and not for the common people as the airline said it had no plans to start commercial trips.
The airline will carry out a trial flight on October 4 from Auckland to Pegasus Field on Ross Island in order to prove that the trip could be possible. The airline also said that if the test flight proves successful it would operate two more flights during the upcoming Antarctic summer season.
For the Antarctic flights, Air New Zealand will use one of its regular passenger planes - an unmodified Boeing 767-300.
“This will fundamentally change our capability on the ice,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.
Unlike the RNZAF 757s which currently flies to Antarctica, Air New Zealand planes can make a return trip without refuelling.
Antarctica New Zealand, the agency that runs the country’s Antarctic programme chartered the flights.
Antarctica New Zealand chairman Rob Fenwick says it invited Air New Zealand to provide air services to Antarctica, and regular flights could offer both the New Zealand and US Antarctic programs more flexibility.
About 2200 scientists are being transported between New Zealand and Antarctica each year. Most of the flights are carried out by the US Air Force from Christchurch, using either Boeing C17 or Hercules aircraft.
In 1979, an Air New Zealand plane crashed into the Mt Erebus on Ross Island killing all 257 on board, which was New Zealand’s worst civil disaster.