In what has become known as “the most challenging flight ever undertaken in Antarctica,” a plane carrying 189 passengers and 25 crew members left the southern French town of Noumea on Wednesday. With brutal temperatures and the bitter wind whipping them about, the passengers on board weren’t too sure what to expect, but they were cheered to see the huge Airbus A340 bounce free from its carrier at the Polar Circle’s French Akademik Shokalskiy research station.
“Nothing can prepare you for what you see, what you feel. Just absolutely amazing,” the captain of the flight, Yves Perrier, told the Agence France-Presse, describing the awe he felt as the plane bounced free of the polar ice, an event that he said was on par with what passengers on the first flight from the North Pole in 1912 saw.
“I felt that joy we all have in the face of new adventures and this is the reality I felt today,” Perrier added.
Alongside Perrier, other crew members described the expedition they had undertaken as “more than a landing,” asserting that it was more “a historic event than a routine landing.”
During the nine-day mission to the base in McMurdo Sound, the aircraft is due to make 50 flights over the ice, exploring more than 6,500 square miles of arctic territory. Some passengers on board believe the biggest challenge may be taking notes on the terrain, as the altitude and the cold will make it hard to take notes on the weather.
Annie Langer, who was onboard the first flight from the North Pole, compared her new experience to visiting a high-level person. “You’re always having to remind yourself that there’s actually another person there just as you are,” she said, adding that it would take some time to adjust.
On the other hand, astronaut Tim Peake, who was also part of the Akademik Shokalskiy expedition, was ecstatic with the plane’s first landing. While watching the landing from his personal tent at the Arctic base, the British astronaut admitted to getting a few “quite stressed, worried looks” from his girlfriend when the plane made its first landing, but reassured his now-wife as the plane bounced free “with the joy of a panda.”
Read the full story at ABC News.
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