Written by by Staff Writer
The Airbus A340 is a plane that continues to capture the imagination of airplane enthusiasts. On Thursday, the latest version of the four-engine jumbo jet — the A340-500 — landed in Antarctica for the first time.
Designed to be the most environmentally friendly aircraft ever flown, the A340 holds a special place in aviation history. It entered commercial service in 1998 and has flown more than 4,900,000 passenger miles worldwide.
The 560-seater aircraft was stopped in the remote runway at Samuell Station on the southern tip of the East Antarctic continent, and is expected to fly to Chile later in the day.
Thanks to a GPS-equipped simulator in its conference room, staff members at the aircraft were kept up to date with its progress throughout the flight.
“It’s not in such an isolated place (in Antarctica),” said the A340’s first pilot Jacques Lefargue, who took the controls in the Alps in July. “We have satellite communication … that keeps us informed (and) kept the balance between environmental, security, the above and below the (ground). It’s a great day, a great moment.”
GPS allowed the A340 to be timed for a landing in the middle of the night to avoid air traffic — with just two hours of daylight.
The A340 will first spend one night at Punta Arenas in Chile, and then it will be shipped back to Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse, France, where it will make way for the A380 superjumbo.
The highly specialized aircraft is used by the carrier Dublin Air Line, which operates flights between Europe and the United States. It was most recently used for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, earlier this year.