Route: Ushuaia, Argentina to King George Island, Antarctica
Aircraft and Livery: Bombardier Q-400, Infinite Flight Charters
Flight Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
It was a stereotypical rainy day in Shannon, when I was on a work Zoom meeting. I work for they National Virology Center of the United States, but since my job only involves in person meetings a few times a year, I’m free to live wherever I’d like. The director of my division announced that someone needed to travel to Antarctica to help some British scientists collect ice core samples. That lucky person must bring back a sample to be tested for various prehistoric viruses.
But, keep in mind, its still not summer! Nobody volunteered to take the samples. My boss said that someone had to do it, so I begrudgingly agreed.
Everyone else signed off the meeting, thankful that they weren’t the ones heading to the South Pole, and my boss sent a flight itinerary. Oh boy…
Flight One: COMPLETE
Aer Lingus A320
Flight Two: COMPLETE
British Airways 787-10
London Heathrow - São Paulo
Flight Three: COMPLETE
São Paulo - Ushuaia
Flight Four: COMPLETE
Infinite Flight Charters Q-400
Ushuaia - King George Island, Antarctica
After clearing Argentinian customs, I re-entered the terminal at Ushuaia, found a departures board and… my flight to Antarctica was delayed until 7:00 AM tomorrow. I called my boss, not thinking he’d be awake at this ungodly hour in Ireland, but he picked up on the third ring. I explained the situation, and he booked me a hotel for the night here in Ushuaia. Apparently, the weather had turned at King George Island, and the visibility dropped below legal minimums for the crew.
THE NEXT MORNING:
I got to the terminal at 6:00 AM. There were not other departures at this time, so I breezed through security and found the group of travelers heading down to Antarctica with me. It was mostly Brits, but there were a few Americans, Canadians, and Germans there as well.
I boarded the aircraft and took my window seat next to a British software engineer. The scientific research center on King George Island somehow got malware in its software system, and he was dispatched to go and fix it.
We pushed back, started the engines, and taxied to the far end of Ushuaia’s runway for takeoff. We climbed quickly, reaching almost 800 feet AGL by the time we reached the other end of the airfield.
After takeoff, out over the Beagle Channel west of Ushuaia city, we began out southward bank. The mountains created a bit of turbulence, but nothing too bad.
This is the last bit of South America I’ll see on this trip. In the middle of the night, my boss told me that, in about a week, I’ll be flying over to McMurdo Station, on the other side of Antarctica, before heading back to Ireland via a charter to Singapore and a Singapore Airlines flight to Paris.
Antarctica! We’re actually right above the King George Island. While we were in flight, a Cessna suffered a gear collapse on the runway. Nobody was hurt, but it took them longer than anticipated to clear the airstrip. We were forced to fly about 80NM farther south than planned, then double back and land about 20 minutes late.
Banking north over General Bernardo O’Higgins Research Base, preparing for our initial approach.
Once again turning to line up with the runway at Teniente R. Marsh Airport.
Entering the flare, we prepare for our -111FPM landing here in Antarctica. Because of the relatively short runway, the Q-400 lands before touchdown zone.
Captain’s view of the approach into King George ISland.
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