Last week, a commercial Boeing 757 passenger plane landed in Antarctica. It was a monumental moment for the airline industry, which has yet to develop the capabilities to bring tourists — until now — to the southernmost region of the globe.
A Loftleidir Icelandic crew landed the passenger jet at Union Glacier on what is called a blue ice runway, which forms when snow falls onto the glacier, gets compacted and recrystallises, reports Mashable.com.
The plane was not the first to ever land on said runway, but it is the first passenger aircraft to do so. Visitors to the polar region usually fly on a passenger/cargo aircraft combination that have been designed specifically for blue-ice landing, reported the Herald Sun.
The feat was part of a mission to “to prove the feasibility of landing commercial passenger airliners at Union Glacier,” said a statement from Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE).
ALE has long been particularly interested in the potential to utilise conventional passenger airliners in Antarctica, according to Daily Mail, given that the company transports anywhere between 400-500 visitors to Antarctica seasonally.
The company hopes that in extending the range of aircraft that can land on the glacier, they can begin to make the region more accessible for tourists on the hunt for a polar adventure.