China Southern Airlines announced that it safely conducted a demonstration flight on a polar routing from…
The aircraft, crammed with technicians from Boeing, CAAC and China Southern departed New York City at 01:13 a.m. (Beijing Time) on July 15 and traversed north over the United States, Canada, the North Pole, Russia`s Far East and Mongolia before safely touching down 14 hours later at Beijing Capital Airport.
A north Polar route refers to flights over the North Pole area along a longitudinal direction, connecting North American metropolitan cities with their Asian counterparts. The current Sino-US transpacific air routes are
along a latitudinal direction moving West/East around the Earth.
China Southern Airlines has always looked at a North Polar service with keen interest. The 6,559-nautical-mile route from New York to Beijing not only considerably shortens the distance between West and East but also saves fuel and can lower landing and take-off fees. And, perhaps most important, since it is a non-stop, direct flight, passengers can avoid time consuming transits at other international airports before reaching their final destination either in the United States or China.
North Polar flights present significant aviation challenges that typical flights never encounter: super strong magnetic fields which can heavily affect an aircraft`s compass navigation and a full-year of sub-zero
temperatures reaching minus 60-70 C degrees.
Such a low atmospheric temperatures could, to some extent, affect an aircraft`s operation. The fluctuations in the Earth`s magnetic field and few ground navigation facilities might also interrupt the normal communication between aircraft and airport ground stations.
And … there is the human factor.
The Arctic presents a bleak, featureless and dead world that might be an added psychological pressure on even the most seasoned airline pilot.
In an effort to meet these challenges head-on, the carrier created a special Polar Flight Group and with the full backing of China Southern`s state-of-the-art System Operation Control Center in Guangzhou – the first
advanced flight operations control system in The People`s Republic of China – the carrier conducted a series of pre-flight evaluations and analysis of the planned air route and worked out a complete and detailed flight plan.
Mr. Jiang Ping, Vice President of China Southern Airlines was appointed as the team leader of the North Polar test flight which was staffed with the airlines` top two flight crews and six of the airlines` senior captains, including lead Captain Hao Jianhua.
Also tapped was Chief Pilot and the first-grade pilot of China Southern Airlines, Captain Shi Yongqiang, Director of China Southern`s Operations Management Office; Captain Liu Qing, Deputy General Manager of the System Operation Control Center; Captain Wang Renjie, Deputy Director of China Southern`s Boeing 777 Fleet; Captain Jin Weifeng, winner of the National May 1st Labor Award and Captain Hu Wei, Division Chief of the Boeing 777 fleet.
In addition, the airline selected the very best co-pilots and experienced cabin crew and maintenance staff to join the Polar Flight Group.
Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines invited senior flight instructors from Boeing to New York City to make presentations to the entire crew prior to the test flight.
In case of any possible unforeseen environmental factors the aircraft might encounter, the flight crew developed backup plans for their backup plans. The cockpit crew collected comprehensive information on weather; air to ground communication and navigation along the polar route; alternative airport landing sites; a detailed flight plan and walked through various emergency scenarios.
In addition, China Southern Airlines` maintenance staff – on hand at JFK International Airport – conducted a top to bottom inspection on the aircraft and strictly monitored the airplane`s air worthiness during the
After the briefing by Boeing, lead Captain Hao Jianhua, called together the entire flight crew to again conduct a detailed preflight countdown, elaborately selecting five airports scattered throughout Russia, Canada, Norway and Mongolia to serve as possible alternative sites for an emergency landing. For this test flight, China Southern Airlines selected the most difficult possible route – directly over the North Pole.
Simultaneously – 10,000 miles away in Guangzhou – aviation specialists at the System Operations Control Center worked all night long monitoring the aircraft`s progress through Global Positioning Satellite technology and was able to keep in full voice contact with the airborne 777 flight crew.
Throughout the flight, the cockpit crew of the Boeing 777 reported that the aircraft was stable and quite comfortable as it zipped through the subzero atmosphere with little headwind and turbulence.
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.