First Boeing 787 Dreamliner Lands on Icy Runway in Antarctica

The large plane, which can accommodate roughly 300 passengers, delivered 45 scientists and 12 tons of equipment to a research station in Queen Maud Land

Flight attendants in front of large plane
Flight attendants pose in front of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Troll Airfield in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Norse Atlantic Airways

A Norwegian airline has made history by landing the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Antarctica.

The Norse Atlantic Airways plane, which can accommodate roughly 300 passengers, touched down safely earlier this month at Troll Airfield. Flight N0787 arrived on a runway made of snow and ice measuring 9,840 feet long by 100 feet wide.

But before you start packing your bags, you should know that this pioneering flight wasn’t bringing tourists to the White Continent for vacation. Instead, it dropped off 45 researchers and 12 tons of gear.

World´s Top Landings! Norse Atlantic's Boeing 787 Dreamliner Historic First Landing in Antarctica!

Many of the scientists work for the Norwegian Polar Institute and were heading to the Troll research station in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. The plane also brought passengers from other nations, who headed off to other research stations on the continent, per Fox Weather’s Hillary Andrews.

The plane was selected for its roomy cargo holds—which offer more than 5,000 cubic feet of space for equipment—and its fuel efficiency. It flew from Cape Town to Antarctica and back again on one tank of gas, which eliminated the “logistical complexities of transporting, storing and handling fuel in Antarctica,” says Paul Erlandsson, a Boeing field service representative, in a statement.

Together, these factors made using the larger plane a more sustainable method of reaching the vulnerable continent. The Norwegian Polar Institute studies both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Its researchers focus on biodiversity, climate, environmental pollutants and geological mapping.

“The most crucial aspect is the environmental gain we can achieve by using large and modern aircraft of this type for Troll,” says Camilla Brekke, the Norwegian Polar Institute’s director, in the statement. “This can help reduce overall emissions and the environmental footprint in Antarctica.”

The continent lacks traditional paved airstrips, so planes must land on “blue ice” runways. Videos shared by the airline showed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner arriving and departing smoothly.

Norse 787 Take off Antarctica

Even so, the journey was long. The plane left Oslo on November 13 and stopped in Cape Town before finally arriving in Antarctica around 2 a.m. on November 15. The sun was shining as the flight touched down because the area experiences 24-hour sunlight at this time of year.

Historically, researchers have used smaller planes or ships to travel to and from the rugged continent and deliver supplies. The U.S. Antarctic Program, for example, uses planes equipped with large skis on the bottom, as well as helicopters and C-17 Air Force jets.

Construction vehicle unloaded supplies from large plane
The plane brought 12 tons of equipment and supplies. Norse Atlantic Airways

The first flight over Antarctica took place in November 1928 aboard a Lockheed Vega 1 plane, according to the Australian Antarctic Program. Australian explorer George Hubert Wilkins and U.S. Army pilot Carl Ben Eielson made the short journey with funding from American businessman and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. They took off from Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands, and made a 20-minute flight.

Tourists hoping to skip the churning waters of the Drake Passage also have a few flight options, reports the New Zealand Herald’s Thomas Bywater. A handful of tour operators offer charter flights to Antarctica, including White Desert and Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions.

White Desert, which runs luxury Antarctic expeditions, is responsible for bringing the first Airbus A340 plane to the continent. In 2021, the large plane—which is just slightly smaller than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—touched down at the company’s Wolf’s Fang runway.

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