Not quite a giant, but certainly a sizable one, the Airbus A340 cargo plane became the first commercial aircraft to make an official landing on the South Pole. The MV Expeditions Resolute, made up of roughly 80 passengers, plus 30 scientists and support staff, was scheduled to depart the Pole after a five-day stay. Once there, they made their way to King George Island, about 180 miles away from the continent’s southernmost tip.
Once there, the passengers and crew were scheduled to move onto the nearby Mawson Base, a research facility which dates back to the turn of the century. Over the course of the expedition, the Expeditions Resolute also visited areas of Antarctica including Elephant Island, West Antarctica and the island of Korla.
The world’s biggest commercial aircraft is an A340-300, a medium-sized jet that dates back to the 1990s and is the longest of its kind. The aircraft seats 264 passengers, about two-thirds of whom are in business class.
Like other major carriers, the A340-300 can carry a much greater payload than any other airbus jet on the market. In January 2016, a Boeing 777 carrying 253 passengers took off from Gatwick Airport in London and landed in Iceland after a trans-Atlantic journey from Qatar. That same month, Air India took delivery of the fifth A340-300, but the plane was used to transport 50 members of a Tibetan delegation to London.