Ready for take-off

14 September 2004

Two CASA-212 (C-212) aircraft are undergoing their final preparations prior to their deployment to Antarctica for use in our Antarctic programme. The planes will fly to all three continental stations and various field locations in the AAT.

At Casey and Mawson, the planes will land on the plateau not far from the stations. At Davis they will initially land on the sea ice, and later in the season when the sea ice melts, they will use a skiway on the glacial ice behind Davis.

The AAD's contractor, Skytraders, took delivery of the two aircraft in Spain a few months ago. After conducting ski fit-out and flight testing in Canada and Greenland, both CASAs are now in Sydney undergoing an additional fitout for Antarctic operations. This includes an avionics fitout with radios, voice and data recorders, as well as noise suppression headsets for passengers, heaters, skis and ferry tanks which carry fuel inside the aircraft when there are no passengers.

Here in Hobart, preparations have also been underway for some time. In conjunction with various stakeholders, procedures have been developed for the selection, maintenance and operation of skiways, including ground handling of cargo and passengers.

In late August, training for the Skytraders pilots and ground crew was delivered near the ski fields at Mt Hotham in Victoria. It covered the Antarctic-specific aspects of aircraft operations such as safety systems (fire fighting and emergency response), understanding meteorological conditions, survival techniques, skidoo driving and ground procedures. A senior Helicopter Resources pilot was also present to talk to the pilots about flying in Antarctic conditions.

AAD engineers have worked to ensure that the use of the CASA aircraft is maximised by developing support equipment to ensure a quick turn around of passengers and cargo. Two small Polaris vehicles will be used at Davis to allow air operations staff to access the helipad and skiway.

Four purpose built trailers mounted on Hagglunds chassis have been designed to ferry cargo to and from the aircraft. Each can carry 2 tonnes, approximately one full plane load of cargo. Two will be sent to Casey and two to Davis.

Light-weight aluminium sleds destined for the skiways have also been designed and built in the mechanical workshop at Kingston. Each is capable of carrying two pallets, and can be towed by small vehicles such as a skidoo or All Surface Vehicle ASV RC-50. Two specially equipped, versatile RC-50s will be stationed at each of the Davis and Casey skiways and used for purposes as varied as skiway maintenance, moving fuel drums and towing sleds. At each skiway, three sleds will be on standby equipped with the following:

  • fuel pumps and hoses for refuelling
  • environmental and emergency response gear
  • a Herman Nelson heater and generator set for heating the aircraft prior to departure

A fourth sled will be available for general purpose use.

When the skiway is established behind Davis after the sea ice melts, passengers will be transported from the skiway to the station by helicopter. In the event of bad weather delaying the transfer, emergency camping facilities have been prepared, including large tents, survival gear and food.

The CASAs will be deployed to Antarctica sometime in October prior to the commencement of the summer operations.

Written by Annie Rushton