Why did a big, Norwegian plane land on a runway made of snow in Antarctica?

Norse Atlantic Airways, a Norwegian airline, made an unusual landing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Antarctica. Photo: Norse Atlantic Airways/X.com

Tabletop runways like in Calicut and Kannur airports, beach runways like in Scotland's island of Barra, drifting ice-base runways in the North Pole, Gibraltar International airport runway with a highway cutting across it, various types of airport runways are found across the world and some of them are also often termed extremely dangerous. Recently, Norse Atlantic Airways, a Norwegian airline, made an unusual landing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Its destination was Antarctica, and the landing strip was just a 'blue ice runway' 3,000 metres long and 60 metres wide, that is, a runway made of snow. It was the first time a Dreamliner landed a large wide-body aircraft on the ice runway of the sixth continent, Antarctica.

Earlier, only small planes and helicopters used to land there. The Norse Atlantic Airways plane, which accommodated around 300 passengers, landed safely at the airfield. However, the flight service was not for tourism. Most of the 45 passengers on board were scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute. The plane was contracted to transport them and 12 tonnes of equipment to the Troll Research Station on Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.

According to current statistics, the number of visitors to Antarctica is increasing every year. More than 100,000 people come to Antarctica each year, braving the heavy snow to engage in adventure activities or to do research. Until now, ships have been the only way to bring large equipment to research centres in Antarctica. However, with the Boeing aircraft making a safe landing on the ice runway, it is hoped that such services will become more common in the future.

There are no traditional paved airstrips on the continent, so planes must land on these snow runways known as 'blue ice'. Videos shared by the airline show the Boeing 787 Dreamliner landing and taking off smoothly. Since Antarctica is situated in the southern hemisphere, the continent is currently experiencing summer. Interestingly, the airport operates only during the summer months, and constant maintenance is ensured by removing ice from its surface. 

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