Antarctic flights return to Auckland
Trips planned after more than 30 yearsPALOMA MIGONE
Commercial sightseeing flights to Antarctica will operate from Auckland for the first time since the Mt Erebus crash more than 30 years ago.
Antarctica Sightseeing Flights will start flying there on February 3 next year, using a Boeing 747 aircraft chartered from Qantas.
Flights to the cold, remote destination from Auckland stopped when Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed on November 28, 1979, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.
Sightseeing trips from Australia took place during the 1990s until now, with Antarctica Sightseeing Flights carrying over 31,000 passengers on 110 flights for the past 18 years.
About 1000 Kiwis were on those flights which departed from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Phil Asker, founder and director of Antarctica Sightseeing Flights, said there was no easier way to explore the world's most remote location than by flying there on a one-day sightseeing trip.
"New Zealanders are adventurers and pioneered sightseeing flights to Antarctica," he said.
"Seeing Antarctica is a lifelong dream for many people, but the cost of a cruise and the length of time spent getting there means the closest that most will ever come to seeing the world's last great wilderness area is via the media."
The flights will carry 364 passengers who can expect to see their first bit of sea ice about three a half hours into the journey.
The flights could descend to a minimum of 10,000 feet above sea level and would typically include the Ross Sea.
The flight plan would also go over the Italian research base at Terra Nova Bay, Mt Melbourne, Mt Minto, Cape Hallett, Cape Adare and the Ninnis and Mertz Glaciers.
Depending upon viewing conditions, other points of interest may include the Trans Antarctic Mountains.
Weather forecasts would be checked the night before departure and then again on the morning before.
Asker said Antarctic experts would provide commentary about the terrain, as well as stories of their own experiences living and working there.
Antarctica Sightseeing Flights said it would follow strict conditions to ensure a safe flight and minimise the impact of the sightseeing flight on the environment below.
Prices for a ticket range from $1,599 for economy class to $9,299 for ice class.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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