Spanning 14.2 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), Antarctica has been described as the coldest, windiest, brightest, highest, and driest continent on Earth. With its unique attributes, it’s no surprise that passengers are keen to head to the distant land via one of White Desert’s luxury tours. Due to a rare human presence in the area, the company has a crucial environmental role. Simple Flying recently caught up with its CEO, Patrick Woodhead, about how the firm operates carbon neutral flights to Antarctica.
An adventurous spirit
White Desert serves a diverse range of clients that have dreams of visiting the largest desert in the world. Guests fly in from all across the globe, including the United States, India, Russia, China, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
When it comes to famous names, the likes of Prince Harry and Bear Grylls have flown to Antarctica with White Desert. Even Buzz Aldrin has traveled to the continent with the company. As the second man on the moon, the former Apollo 11 astronaut certainly knows a fair bit about exploration!
Woodhead explains that the common denominator among all of the guests is an appreciation for the sense of discovery that Antarctica represents. He notes that it is hard to find anywhere else like this place on the planet, and whether they are from the world of tech, finance, royalty, or Hollywood, all clients have a hunger for adventure. Overall, the clientele typically ranges from 35 to 75 years of age, with guests visiting with loved ones.
The right arsenal
White Desert primarily deploys its Gulfstream G550 to transport 12 passengers to its runway in Queen Maud Land. However, the firm is looking to add an Airbus A340 to its fleet. This widebody will carry cargo and scientists to their research stations. By sharing the plane with scientists and visitors, operations can be conducted more efficiently, which the firm hopes will help with the broader sustainability goals.
Woodhead notes that beyond White Desert’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and the UK Net Zero target, the company has targets to replace all Jet A-1 fuel in Antarctica with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over the next three years. Overall, the company is committed to constantly improving its operations to provide a safe and highly reliable air bridge from South Africa to Antarctica.
Covering all angles
With Antarctica one of the last expansive regions largely uninhabited by humans, White Desert has a duty to ensure that its operations are conducted sustainably. Therefore, the group mitigates all emissions generated by its flights and activities through fully accredited carbon offset schemes. Notably, it has been carbon neutral since 2007, an aspect that is a core value of the business.
White Desert’s sustainability initiatives include:
- Becoming the first Antarctic operator to use SAF, which will significantly reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%
- Offsetting all of its flights, activities, and projects to ensure that it achieves net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
- Utilizing modern aircraft with highly fuel-efficient engines
- Providing logistics support by delivering scientists to their research stations for vital climate change programs
- Designing eco-camps as temporary, removable structures
- Exporting all waste from Antarctica for recycling /responsible disposal
- Using photovoltaic panels and solar air heaters to reduce fossil fuel consumption
- Collaborating with air…