Czech airline Smartwings is the first to land a Boeing 737 MAX in Antartica.
The aircraft landed at Troll Airfield at the northern tip of Antarctica on January 26, 2022.
The station, run by the Norwegian Polar Institute, has a 3000m long runway built on a glacier at an altitude of 1232 meters.
The Smartwings Boeing 737 MAX (registration OK-SWB) flew from Oslo to Cape Town via N’Djamena, Chad. From Cape Town, the aircraft continued to Antarctica.
The surface was specifically prepared, and braking action measured by Norwegian Polar Institute prior to operation to allow takeoff and landing according to regulations and aircraft manufacturer standards keeping all the safety margins.
The aircraft had a crew of three experienced captains who undertook special training to land on the glacier. They received continuous weather reports and updates on the airport operability during the flight via datalink and satellite phone communication. Throughout the flight, Smartwings technical staff in Prague monitored the aircraft through a datalink.
Aircontact charted the flight to carry the members of the Norwegian Polar Institute to their base.
As Troll is a so-called isolated airport, where there are no other landing options within reach, the flight needed approval from the Czech Aviation Authority.
Smartwings is the largest airline in the Czech Republic. Based in Prague, it operates scheduled and chartered flights, mainly to leisure destinations in mainland Europe, the Canaries, UK (including London Heathrow) and Dubai. It also owns 98% of Czech Airlines, and has subsidiaries in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
Fleet: An all Boeing 737 fleet of over 30 aircraft:
- 2 Boeing 737-900ER
- 7 Boeing 737 MAX 8
- 24 Boeing 737-800
- 2 Boeing 737-700
Passengers: 2.7 million in 2021
N.B. Image credit: Smartwings