Antarctic aircraft

I’ve posted a piece on Halley’s International airport already, so this post will focus more on the aircraft that visit us and can land at Halley. We have a groomed snow runway, so skis are necessary to land and as far as I know we’ve only had two types of aircraft: Baslers and Twin Otters.

The Basler BT-67 is a modified Douglas DC-3 with twin turboprop engines and an extended fuel tank among other things. They can operate in different modes to increase their payload or number of passengers, although it is mostly a cargo aircraft. I think the maximum seating is 38 passengers, but most of the time they reduce the number and transport either extra fuel, cargo or luggage. At the start and end of every summer season the ALCI (Antarctic Logistics Centre International) Baslers come through from our neighbouring stations Neumayer and Novo bringing personnel, cargo and sometimes presents. Last summer the two Kenn Borek Air Baslers Lidia (C-GEAI) and Mia (C-GEAJ) stopped over. Both planes have quite a history with their maiden flights in 1944 and 1943 respectively, including a (controlled) crash (without fatalities) of Mia in 2009 that was repaired in the deep field. This year Mia was sold (or scrapped, not sure), so only Lidia paid us a visit this summer.

The other more frequent visitor is the Twin Otter, which are de Havilland Canada DHC-6 short take-off and landing utility aircraft. BAS operate four twin otters (VP-FAZ, VP-FBC, VP-FBB and VP-FBL) and they are a staple in Antarctica to transport cargo, personnel and perform medevacs, including the one this January from Amundsen-Scott south pole station. Their general setup to carry cargo leaves room for usually up to 5 extra passengers one of which acts as the co-pilot once they have had some basic inductions. This week VP-FBL arrived bringing 3 people to station and flew off back to Rothera with one of our team co-piloting. Most of the BAS twin otters have had a new avionics system installed this year with new navigation and control consols. Vicky, the pilot, was happy to show us around before leaving the next day to Rothera via Fossil Bluff. Due to their short range they often have to stop at midway points to refuel. These can either be fuel depots in the field or one of the two manned summer hubs Sky Blu and Fossil Bluff, which are located near the Antarctic Peninsula. Sky Blu has a clear blue ice runway which allows aircraft to land without skis. There is some basic accommodation there (a clam tent at Sky Blu and a chalet at the Bluff) to allow a short stay before making the last hop over to Rothera, the main gateway for BAS flights. Back when the Baslers came through they were accompanied by the Kenn Borek owned twin otter (C-GKBX), which is slightly different to the BAS operated ones in that it has a short nose cap at the front.

At Rothera and other intercontinental gateways like Novo, larger aircraft can be accommodated, such as the de Havilland Canada DHC-7 (or Dash 7 in short) and the Russian Ilyushin Il-76. Some of our wintering team came in early last year on the Ilyushin from Cape Town to Novo before being flown to Halley on the Basler. The Ilyushin carries the cargo at the back held behind netting with several rows of seats in front (ca. 50 seats). The old military seating lines the walls and the windows are too high to look out while seated so they have a screen showing images from a camera mounted on the nose.

We’re due to fly out on the Dash 7 from Rothera at the end of summer, so I hope to get some photos then and will post them.


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