The first plane built exclusively for Airbus, the mammoth A340, landed in Antarctica yesterday on the maiden voyage of the aircraft dubbed A340-500. Built for France in 1996, the A340-500 is one of the longest commercial airliners in the world. The Airbus press release noted that the aircraft is “the largest aircraft ever to make the journey between Europe and Antarctica.” It has the roomiest passenger cabin in the world at 244 square meters, over 41 meters longer than the closest rival.
It also has an impressive list of features that ensure safety and comfort, including self-closing doors, inflight showers and amenity kits. The pilot and navigator also wear special special crash suits, oxygen masks and gloves specially made for aviation.
French President Emmanuel Macron made the announcement in 2015 that the Airbus airliner, named the Alucia after the people of Antartica, would be offered to the French government as a means of expanding the space program.
“If it is up to me, the goal is to build a ship that can reach the South Pole. We all know that it will take a considerable amount of time, but if I have the political green light, of course I will do it,” Macron told the weekly magazine L’Express.
The Airbus A340 was refurbished in Europe before being transported to Antarctica. The flight from Paris Luton Airport, British Airways’ base, to Australia was made possible thanks to the support of France’s Antarctic program and the HMS Endurance expedition ship.