Saturday, January 30, 2021

Longest Passenger Flight in Lufthansa History - A350 charter from Hamburg (HAM) to Mt. Pleasant (MPN) Islas Malvinas / Falkland Islands on 31Jan21

Lufthansa German Airlines will operate a nonstop charter flight from Hamburg (HAM) to Mt. Pleasant (MPN), Islas Malvinas / Falkland Islands on 31Jan21 carrying a party of researchers that will continue to Antarctica by sea.  This will be the longest nonstop passenger flight in Lufthansa's history.  

A350-900 registration D-AIXP will be the aircraft assigned to the flight, designated LH2574 with the return to Munich (MUC) on 03Feb21 being LH2575. Interestingly, the southbound fight will track over the Argentine city of Mar del Plata, which can be followed at  Social media coverage of the flight is available at @lufthansaNews (Twitter) and @lufthansaviews (Instagram) - #LHLongestFlight.

The flight will have 17 Lufthansa crewmembers plus 92 passengers, half of them being researchers and scientists from the German Alfred Wegener Institute with the other half being crewmembers of the German expeditionary ship "Polastern".  They will sail from the islands to the "Neumayer III" station on Antarctica with the institute staff spending the south pole winter there.  The flight could not operate directly to Antarctica because there are no airstrips on the continent that can take aircraft as large as the A350.
Lufthansa operates this flight twice-yearly in the southern hemisphere summer for the annual changeover of Antarctica-based staff, usually via South Africa, but special care is being taken this year to avoid introducing COVID-19 to the Antarctic continent, which is one of the few regions of the world that the virus has not yet reached.  This is especially important because of the limited medical facilities on Antarctica and the inaccessibility of the territory most of the year due to the brutal weather conditions.  Operating via the Malvinas / Falklands greatly reduces the likelihood of virus transmission due to no cases of COVID-19 currently on the islands.  

The flight will cover a routing 8,560 miles / 13,700 km long, taking some 15 hours to complete.  After arriving at Mt. Pleasant (MPN) on 01Feb21, D-AIXP will lay over at the British Royal Air Force base for two days as it is prepared for its journey back to Germany carrying staff traveling in the opposite direction after finishing their year of Antarctica duty. 

In addition to making arrangements with the RAF for use of the Mt. Pleasant (MPN) airbase, the German government also asked the government of Argentina for permission to land on the islands, a seemingly tacit recognition of Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the archipelago, which has been in dispute with the British since the early 19th century, culminating in the 1982 South Atlantic War resulting in a heavy reinforcement of the Malvinas / Falklands by British military forces.  The Argentine foreign office gave its approval to the German request.



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