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Largest Plane Yet Makes Landing On Antarctica's Blue Ice Runway

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner made history touching down at Antarctica's famous Troll Airfield.

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft touched down on Antarctica on November 15, 2023.

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft touched down in Antarctica on November 15, 2023.

Image credit: Norse Atlantic Airways

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft landed smoothly on an icy runway in a remote part of Antarctica earlier this month, earning the title of the largest plane to ever land on the airstrip near the Norwegian research station Troll.

Commissioned by the Norwegian Polar Institute, the giant aircraft set off on its voyage from Cape Town in South Africa before arriving in Antarctica at 02:01 local time on November 15, according to Norse Atlantic Airways.

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The plane glided down onto a 3,000-meter (9,842-foot) blue ice runway, which sits above a glacier and is only operated during the Antarctic summer season between October and March. 

As treacherous as it may sound, it’s not uncommon for large aircraft to land in Antarctica and air travel has become the main mode of transportation to and from the continent. This particular Norwegian airstrip at Troll greets around six to 10 aircraft every year, but this latest arrival is the largest yet and the first-ever Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

“Norwegian Polar Institute has safely landed a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Troll Airfield. A milestone! This demonstrates our capability of performing more effective flight operations to Antarctica by carrying a larger scientific and logistics crew, more cargo with a smaller environmental footprint,” Norwegian Polar Institute director, Camilla Brekke, said in a statement.

Larger planes have landed elsewhere in Antarctica, though. In 2021, an Airbus 340-300 landed on the continent, measuring 63.7 meters (209 feet), less than a meter longer than a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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Along with the crew, 45 passengers and 12 tonnes of research equipment were onboard the recent landing. Many headed towards the Norwegian Troll research station, but a handful traveled onwards to the German research station "Neumayer III".

Travelers still had a long journey to go after touchdown. The airstrip is located approximately 7 kilometers (over 4 miles) from the Troll research station, Norway's only all-year research station in Antarctica, located 235 kilometers (146 miles) from the coast in the eastern part of Princess Martha Coast in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. 


Its main mission is atmospheric research, along with an ample dose of biological, glaciological, and geological fieldwork. Antarctica is important for science as it provides a unique vantage point for studying the climatic conditions of our planet and the impact humans have on it. Antarctica has a profound influence on the Earth’s wider climate and ocean systems, so what happens here will be felt far beyond the icy continent’s boundaries.

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However, researchers are aware that their presence in this strange land will also have an impact on the environment, so they take significant precautions to ensure it’s left as pristine as possible. For instance, the station actively limits its energy consumption so excess heat isn’t leaked into the environment. Instead, excess heat is guided towards a system that’s used to melt snow and ice for drinking water and the station’s central heating.


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