In two hours at 6:10 PM Australian eastern time, a Qantas A380 charted by Croydon Travel will depart Melbourne as QF 2903 for a 12 hour sightseeing trip to Antarctica. It will be the first time an A380 has been in the south polar region, according to Croydon.
Qantas and Air New Zealand have previously conducted sightseeing tours. On these flights the aircraft does not land on the continent but rather passes over during a four hour period. You can read more here from the when the A380 flight was first announced.
Phil Asker, who manages the Antarctic flights for Croydon, says this was the first New Year's Eve his company could conduct the flight with an A380. While Qantas took delivery of its first A380 in September 2008, Asker says the aircraft was not available for Antarctic charters until this past July. There is a five year approval to use the A380, he adds. Already Croydon plans another A380 trip on 24 January 2010.
Tonight's flight, with 450 passengers as well as a suite of crew, is due to overfly Tasmania en route to Antarctica, Croydon says. Reaching the continent will take four hours. Some 19 flight tracks are at the crew's disposal to choose from based on weather and other navigation requirements.
Croydon says of the most likely route:
The most frequently-selected flightseeing route takes sightseers over sea ice and the South Magnetic Pole about 3 ½ hours south of Melbourne, en route to the French research base of Dumont d'Urville.
There, the aircraft will turn and fly above the jagged coast of Antarctica, before heading inland and flying figure-eight patterns over glaciers and frozen terrain which stretches as far as the eye can see.
The final phase of sightseeing on a typical Antarctica flight takes the aircraft over the spectacular Trans Antarctic Range.Croydon says the passengers on board the flight will be the first to glimpse the new year light. No doubt those passengers will have a great New Year's Eve, but a very happy 2010 to all of you as well.