AWESOME: Icelandair’s Antarctica Flight

Filed Under: Icelandair

Several days ago I wrote about what might just be one of the coolest flights ever. I wanted to post an update about this flight, given that the plane has now completed this journey, and there’s even a video of the plane both landing and taking off from Antarctica, with views from the ground and from inside the cabin.

Icelandair 767 flies between Iceland & Antarctica

An Icelandair Boeing 767-300 has just completed an epic roundtrip journey between Iceland and Antarctica via South Africa. The 767 had the flight number FI1010 on the southbound sector, and flight number FI1011 on the northbound sector. The service was operated by a 20 year old plane with the registration code TF-ISN.

Here’s what the flight’s schedule looked like:

  • On Wednesday, February 24, the 767 flew nonstop from Keflavik to Cape Town in a flight time of 14hr, landing on Thursday, February 25
  • On Friday, February 26, the 767 flew from Cape Town to Troll Research Station in a flight time of 5hr43min
  • On Friday, February 26, the 767 flew from Troll Research Station to Cape Town in a flight time of 5hr15min
  • On Friday, February 26, the 767 flew from Cape Town to Oslo in a flight time of 12hr53min, landing on Saturday, February 27
  • On Sunday, February 28, the 767 flew from Oslo to Keflavik in a flight time of 2hr38min

Here are some more interesting details about this service:

  • This Icelandair 767 had a crew of 20 people, including six pilots, 13 flight attendants, and one mechanic
  • This flight was crewed in a creative way to allow for rest; for example, the pilots operating the Iceland to South Africa flight stayed in Cape Town to rest, then another set of pilots flew roundtrip between South Africa and Antarctica, and then the set of pilots that rested in Cape Town operated the return flight to Oslo, and then the entire crew rested in Oslo for a night before returning to Iceland
  • Icelandair picked up Norwegian scientists in Cape Town who traveled to Antarctica; then on the return journey Icelandair transported Norwegian scientists from Antarctica to Norway
  • The entire roundtrip journey covered a distance of over 20,000 miles — the flight from Iceland to South Africa covered a distance of ~7,100 miles, and the flight from South Africa to Antarctica covered a distance of ~2,700 miles, while the return was even further due to the Oslo stop
  • Almost as impressive as the flight to Antarctica itself was that the Keflavik to Cape Town flight was operated nonstop, as that must be one of the longest 767 flights ever; this was only possible because of how empty the plane was

Video of the Icelandair 767 in Antarctica

We had previously seen pictures of the Icelandair 767 on the ground in Antarctica, and that looked mighty cool.

However, that pales in comparison to the video that are now available. Here’s a video of the Icelandair 767 landing in Antarctica.

Then here’s a video of the Icelandair 767 taking off from Antarctica.

This isn’t even Icelandair’s first flight to Antarctica — back in 2015, Icelandair became the first commercial airline to land a plane on a blue-ice runway in Antarctica, as the airline operated a flight to Union Glacier. That flight had originated in Chile.

Even cooler than Lufthansa’s Falkland Islands flight?

Several weeks ago Lufthansa made headlines for its Falkland Islands flight, also intended to transport people (most of the way) to Antarctica:

  • Lufthansa operated a journey from Hamburg, Germany, to Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands, to Munich, Germany, with an Airbus A350-900; the outbound flight was Lufthansa’s longest-ever nonstop flight
  • This was intended to transport scientists and ship crews who were either getting onto or off of the Polarstern research vessel to Antarctica
  • While these trips would have operated through South Africa in the past, this journey went through the Falkland Islands due to coronavirus concerns in South Africa at the time (though the situation has improved considerably there)

While I thought that flight was ridiculously cool, Icelandair has Lufthansa beat here — landing directly on the ice in Antarctica is no doubt cooler (both literally and figuratively).

Bottom line

An Icelandair 767 has just completed an epic roundtrip journey from Iceland to Antarctica, with stops in South Africa and Norway along the way. What a cool flight from an avgeek perspective, and it’s especially great to see how seamlessly this was pulled off, given all the logistics involved. This is all even cooler to me after seeing the videos of the takeoff and landing.

Do you find this Icelandair flight as cool as I do?

  1. Are their special skills required to land on an ice runway? Or is it so cold that the ice is no longer super-slippery and functions nearly the same as a conventional asphalt or concrete runway?

  2. They really couldn’t find any operator in Africa for this? The emissions of a 767 flying to CPT for nothing…

  3. @Abey: that’s the first thing that crossed your mind upon reading this? Seriously?

    And, do tell, what African airline has the equipment and experience to land on an ice runway while saving the globe? Hint: probably none of them.

  4. @stogieguy7 – FYI there have been a number of operations to the ice runways in Antartica by African operators over the years. The 727 in particular was a favourite for these missions. Some colleagues of mine did this trip multiple times.

    Knowing the guys at Icelandair though, I can’t imagine they would ever pass a trip like this up if given a chance. I can probably even guess a few of the pilots who volunteered for the mission. They have some incredible (and crazy) aviators there.

  5. You need to check out the company White Desert. VERY high on my bucketlist. No points options, unfortunately 😉

  6. Not sure why you continually refer to a “blue-ice runway”. I have flown into McMurdo and landed on the runway made from sea ice there. There was no part of it that was blue. It’s all pretty white everywhere you look. Did you have a meaning for “blue-ice”?

  7. “Blue ice” – what used to fall out of the lavs in commercial airliners before they were required to just store the toilet effluent until landing and pump it out on the ground. I guess people complained when a big chunk of blue ice came crashing their the roof…can’t imagine why.

  8. Well, SAA may as well have done the flight, they seem to be willing to fly an empty a340-600 today all the way from Joburg to Brussels and back to fetch 100kgs of vaccine, they could just have well wasted some more money by flying on to Antarctica with at least a few fare paying passengers.

  9. “The plane is first operating to Cape Town to pick up Norwegian scientists”

    The plane will not pickup anyone in Cape Town. It will bring back scientists from Antarctica to Norway. This is the last flight before the summer season ends.

  10. Antarctica has reported zero Covid infections. The penguins in charge are what real leadership looks like.

  11. @stogieguy7

    Hint: South African Airways is an African carrier with lots of experience flying over Antarctica, SAA pilots are trained for it. Might want to research your information before to stop practicing civility.

  12. Many people don’t know but only scientists can go to Antarctica to conduct research. Antarctica is not a tourist place, so if you are not a scientist authorized to go to work there, then you will not able to travel to the territory.

  13. @Peter oh my White Desert looks amazing. Yup that is definitely going at or near the top of my bucket list now.

  14. Icelandair take my Frequent Flier miles! You take then NOW !!!

    (Hey AmEx… About those 1,000,000 membership rewards points… I got an idea… )

  15. As someone who had a project at McMurdo, I can tell you a little about what is going on there. Some of my guys were caught down there last year when Covid started. They made everyone evac and no science is occurring due to the fear that Covid would break out down there and they are not medically equipped to handle that. So far they have been successful, but it does put everything on hold.
    Almost everyone who travels as a tourist to Antarctica travels to the peninsula opposite South America. McMurdo Station is almost due south of New Zealand. You CAN go there as a tourist, but you have to provide your own transportation and they do not have to support you. Mostly just people who helicopter in from their yacht.
    Thanks for those who explained “blue ice”. That is definitely not the term we use at McMurdo where we say we land on a sea ice runway (very smooth landing – it’s great) and very rarely construct ice roads since those would not melt away and might alter the ecology. Every year one of the big activities is blazing a trail to the South Pole Station with a caravan of specially equipped vehicles which takes over a month.

  16. There is a slight risk of a mechanical in Antarctica. If that happened, there would be no spare parts there to use.

  17. They’ve finally lived up to their name – icelandair finally operating a flight to the mighty ice land

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