Boeing 787 Dreamliner makes landing in Antarctica

The plane landed at the Troll Airfield in Antarctica after flying in from Cape Town

* The flight N0787 was no regular passenger route as its 45 passengers included scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute

* Which had contracted the flight to take them and 12 tons of equipment to the Troll research station in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica

By Julia Buckley, CNN & Ashish Dangwal, Euro Asian Times

There are short runways, bumpy runways and runways that are notoriously buffeted by crosswinds, but here’s a new one for nervous flyers to get alarmed about — an ice runway.


Norse Atlantic Airways landed a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in rather different conditions than usual on Wednesday — the destination: Antarctica and the landing strip: a ‘blue ice runway’ 3,000 meters (9840 feet) long and 60 meters (100 feet) wide, sculpted from the snow and ice.

The Dreamliner landed at Troll Airfield on Wednesday just after 2a.m. — in bright sunlight, since it’s summer in the southern hemisphere at the moment. It’s the first time a Dreamliner — a widebody aircraft which can carry up to 330 passengers, depending on the model — has made it to the sixth continent.

But before you start looking to book your own flight to Troll, know that flight N0787 was no regular passenger route. The 45 passengers included scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute, which had contracted the flight to take them and 12 tons of equipment to the Troll research station in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.

It was no quick hop across the ocean, either. The plane departed Oslo on November 13, stopping in Cape Town before heading further south on Wednesday night to make its record-breaking landing.

The Dreamliner’s ample cargo space made it the ideal aircraft for the flight, said Daniel Carey of Aircontact, the broker which arranged the flight. Its fuel efficiency was also a factor, said Paul Erlandsson, field service representative at Boeing. The aircraft made it to Antarctica and back to Cape Town without needing to refuel.

“It is a great honor and excitement on behalf of the entire team Norse that we have achieved together a momentous moment of landing the first 787 Dreamliner,” Norse Atlantic Airways CEO, Bjørn Tore Larsen, said in a statement.

“In the spirit of exploration, we are proud to have a hand in this important and unique mission. It is a true testament to our highly trained and skilled pilots and crew, and our state-of-the-art Boeing aircraft.”


Camilla Brekke, the Norwegian Polar Institute director, said using the larger aircraft was a more sustainable way or reaching the famously fragile continent.

“The most crucial aspect is the environmental gain we can achieve by using large and modern aircraft [which] can help reduce overall emissions and the environmental footprint in Antarctica,” she said.

“Landing such a large aircraft opens up entirely new possibilities for logistics at Troll, which will also contribute to strengthening Norwegian research in Antarctica.”

The key milestone touchdown at Troll Airfield is an achievement that also signifies that the Boeing 787 has successfully operated flights to every continent globally.


In a collective effort, 11 nations — Norway, Belgium, Finland, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom — jointly contribute logistical resources as part of the DROMLAN.

The airfield operates as a central distribution point for smaller bases, served by ski-fitted Basler BT-67 aircraft, a heavily modified version of the iconic DC-3.

Despite Queen Maud Land’s geographical distance from Norway, the Scandinavian country claims sovereignty over this region, extending its territorial presence to include Bouvet Island, an uninhabited islet approximately halfway between South Africa and Antarctica.

Leveraging a modern aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner facilitates the conveyance of more excellent passenger and cargo volumes, thereby reducing the environmental impact of flight operations to and from Antarctica. 

This strategy lessens the need for frequent flights to support remote research stations, fostering both efficiency and environmental sustainability.


Nevertheless, the operation of large aircraft in Antarctica is contingent upon the availability of a suitable runway. The meticulous planning and utilization of flexible technology are imperative for the development and upkeep of an ice runway in the challenging environment of Antarctica. 

Even after the completion of construction, the runway continues to grapple with persistent challenges stemming from the ever-unpredictable weather conditions prevalent in Antarctica.  

Yet, flights to and from the continent are fraught with uncertainties, compelling pilots to navigate through demanding skies under optimal circumstances—clarity of visibility, gentle winds, and the absence of precipitation.

As the ice begins to melt in the relatively warmer months of December and January, the runway becomes slippery, making it unsuitable for landings. This limitation creates a limited timeframe each year for successful operations when conditions are relatively favorable.