Arctic to Equator : Endurance record on a Boeing 757

Thin, long and gangly, who would have thought when it was first launched that a Boeing 757 could one day fly nonstop from the Arctic to the Equator?

By Sean Mendis

It had been a quiet month for travel. Well, it really hadn't to be honest. By the time the 26th rolled around, I had already flown just over 35,000 miles but since most of those were accumulated on two personal weekend trips to India, I felt they didn't count.

Still, that was about to change. There was a 757 due for delivery on winter lease from Iceland and I was supposed to fly up to London in order to tick the boxes, kick the wheels and initial, initial, initial, sign to confirm that we wanted to decline the optional CDW insurance.

Alas, the best laid plans have the habit of going to crap. Someone in maintenance had overlooked something and so she had to have work done in Copenhagen right about the time she was due to be delivered in London. She then had to be inspected and signed off at Keflavik before we could take delivery. With the aircraft due to go into scheduled service immediately the following day, it looked like the only option would be for us to take delivery in Iceland and then ferry her down to Africa overnight.

The overnight flight up to London is typically uneventful. I forego the Business Class seat for an entire row near the back and leave instructions not to disturb me for any meals. I stir about 30 minutes before landing while the girls are busy clearing away the second service, so I brew myself a coffee in the rear galley and freshen up before we touch down at Gatwick just after 6am local time. IRIS is typically quick and with no luggage, I'm picking up the rental car within the hour.

The M25 can be very hit-or-miss at this time of day, but fortunately today was one of the hits. I make it over to Heathrow in under 40 minutes and pull off into the Marriott car park on Bath Road just before 8am. An old friend who flies for Emirates is on a Heathrow layover today and we've arranged to meet up at her hotel for breakfast. After a few hours catching up, I make my way over to the Avis lot where I drop off the one-way rental (NOTE : Avis has now instituted drop-off fees for oneway rentals between Heathrow/Gatwick leaving Hertz as the last holdout to consider them coterminals) and board the shuttle to Terminal 1.

The Icelandair checkin area appears quite lonely amid the sea of British Airways and BMI desks, but that suits me just fine as it means zero wait. We are completely full in Saga Class today, so 2 rows of "convertible" seats behind door 2 are being used in addition to all of A-zone. I manage to snag the exit row window and make my way through a lengthy security que into the departure lounge. I have barely time to grab the latest ECONOMIST from WHSmith before I need to wander down to the gate. I presume there is some sort of lounge access for Saga Class passengers, but since I am non-revving (albeit positive space) I don't care to waste their time and money.

At the gate, I note that our ride today is TF-FIV, otherwise named Gu?r??ur ?orbjarnard?ttir. For those unfamiliar with the Icelandic Sagas, Gu?r??ur is considered the first Caucasian woman to land in modern-day North America during the 11th century. Unfortunately, the aircraft is more commonly referred to as "India Victor" nowadays to correspond to the phonetic alphabets representing her registration. Less of a mouthful for ATC I'm sure, but definitely loses out on the romantic imagery that the Sagas can conjure.