Aussie airline makes historic flight in historic plane

An Airbus A340 made a historic first landing in Antarctica on Tuesday, five decades after the aircraft was first put into service.

For the Ansett Flight—which transported delegates to the 1996 Antarctic conference—the first flight since its introduction in 1970 marked a significant milestone. The first A340—the biggest airliner available in the early ’90s—turned heads after it arrived in Sydney, Australia, carrying 223 passengers.

Pilot Andrew McNaughton informed passengers on the Tuesday takeoff that there were low clouds overhead. But in spite of an irregular bearing when the aircraft pulled into the air, all passengers and crew members were safe. McNaughton’s mission was to observe first-hand how the ozone hole—which plays havoc with aircraft landing and taking off there—is reacting to the increased tourism.

Flight crews went through training for an hour and a half before takeoff, which involved learning how to pronounce the continent’s name, Antarctica. There was extra time for that in-flight duty due to the low winds overhead.

Australian and British air authorities certified the flight last December, according to aviation news website

McNaughton, a private pilot who works for Challenger Specialists, lives in Broughton, England. The airline is based at Melbourne Airport, Australia, the country’s second busiest, and has 14 Airbus A340 aircraft.

The aircraft is commercially owned by Australian airline Berlingo.

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