This week at Davis: 3 February 2017

This week at Davis we've been very aviation focused with a Hercules coming in and some deep field projects having been achieved. However, we did still manage to combine fire training with washing the vehicles.

The Hercules arrives at Davis

It left as quickly as it came…

LC–130 arrives at Davis.

January 31st saw the much anticipated arrival of the United States Air Force, Lockheed LC–130 Hercules, nicknamed “The City of Albany.” This particular aircraft is operated by the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard. Through a ‘quid pro quo’ arrangement with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP,) the Australian Antarctic Division can use the aircraft to transport passengers and cargo throughout Antarctica.

Preparations for the flight had begun several weeks earlier with the Aviation Ground Support Officer (AGSO) team preparing the ski landing area (SLA) to accommodate for the specific requirements of the Hercules. Due to its size and monster payload capabilities’, this included extending the runway out to 2200 metres. The usual length of the Davis SLA is 1500 metres.

Once the SLA has been prepared it is then meticulously checked for any irregularities by surveyors on secondment from the Australian Army. The final inspection is then completed by the AGSO team which checks the hardness and density of the landing surface. After all the information is collated, and provided it passes final inspection, clearance is given for the flight to go ahead.

After a successful landing at Woop Woop, the Hercules taxied to the ‘Cargo Combat Off-Load Area’ where the back ramp was lowered and the incoming freight was jettisoned.

We welcomed 18 new people to Davis disembarking the flight and said our farewells to the six expeditioners leaving.

After back–loading the final piece of cargo, the back ramp was raised and we waved goodbye. The total turnaround time was about 20 minutes, which is very efficient – well done team!

Matt (Senior AGSO)

A photo from ground level of the corrugations in the skiway surface, from being groomed.
The corrugated surface of the groomed skiway.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
The hercules plane lands on it's ski's on the ice skiway.
The Hercules touches down.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Matt is dressed in hi-vis gear. He is carrying a handheld radio which he is using to talk to the pilots who have just landed in the herc.
Matt communicates with the pilots after landing.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Disembarking passengers are guided off the plane.
Disembarking passengers are guided off the plane.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
People are around the back of the plane, moving cargo between the plane and the waiting vehicles
Gear is unloaded from the Hercules onto vehicles.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
View from under the wing back to the plane's body. It's a big plane.
Another perspective.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
A group of people huddle on the plateau ice, listening to a safety briefing. In the background is the helicopter they are about to use to fly down to Davis Station.
New arrivals getting a safety briefing about the helicopter flight down to…
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
The hercules is taking off. It is a side on view where you can see the skis attached to the landing gear.
The Hercules departs - back to Casey.
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
A group of expeditioners arrive at Davis. They are standing behind the sign up by the heli hanger.
Clive, Esther, Daniel, Katherina, Jacque and Bryce arrive at Davis.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
A group of expeditioners arrive at Davis.
Andrew, Sandra, Paul, Pete, Fiona and Mark arrive at Davis.
(Photo: Barry Becker)

Aviation at Davis this summer

The 2016/17 summer has seen a very busy aviation program, particularly for the helicopter team at Davis station. The season kicked off with the arrival of two Airbus Helicopters H125 aircraft on the Aurora Australis in early November.

The H125 is a modern high performance single engine helicopter perfectly suited for the work we do in Antarctica. They are capable of transporting up to five passengers or carrying over 1000 kilograms as an under-slung load. With a full tank of fuel they can fly for up to three hours and cover over 500 kilometres.

The helicopter team consists of two pilots and two engineers. Paul (Senior Pilot), Dave P (Pilot), Rowan (Senior Engineer) and Wayde (Engineer) made up the first team that arrived on the Aurora Australis. They had a busy start to the season getting everything set up, ensuring everyone was trained to work safely around the helicopters and then a lot of local flying around the Vestfold Hills and as far afield as Amanda Bay.

In mid–December myself, Toby (Pilot), Euan (Senior Engineer) and Angus (Engineer) arrived to swap out with the first crew. We will return to Australia at the end of the season with the helicopters aboard the Aurora Australis.

A typical day for the helicopter team starts with a meteorological brief from the superbly talented forecasters Damo and Rach, who give us an overview of what we can expect to be happening with the weather for the day. From there we also complete the Air Task Risk Assessment for each job we are going to do that day. While all this is going on the engineers are at the hangar carrying out pre-flight inspections on the aircraft and getting them out on the helipads and refuelled ready for the days flying.

Any time we are flying the super professional communications operators, Mick and Sam are always only a radio call away and keep track of our movements and pass us any new information or changes to the schedule all while handling multiple different radio channels. A special mention must go to Sharon, the operations coordinator, who manages all the different projects requesting helicopter time, completes the Air Task forms and comes up with the plan of what we will do each day.

This summer we have undertaken work in support of a number of different scientific programs. Our regular customers include seabird ecologists, chemists, glaciologists, geologists and geophysical scientists. We are also the only link to the skiway which is located of the plateau so are always busy flying the Aircraft Ground Support Officer’s (AGSO’s), fixed wing crew and passengers to and from their flights.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have amazing weather this summer allowing us to undertake a number of deep field projects with some flights over 500 kilometres from station. These long range flights would not be possible without careful planning and a lot of team work from everyone involved, especially the field training officers, Christian, Nick, Gideon and Billy.

A particularly memorable task for all involved this season saw both helicopters and the Twin Otter fixed wing aircraft deploy to a remote deep field site called Scullin Monolith.

Scullin Monolith is a large crescent shaped rock formation rising 420 metres out of the ocean. It is an Antarctic Specially Protected Area and requires a permit to enter. Few people have ever visited Scullin and it is home to one of the largest colonies of seabirds in Antarctica including over 160,000 pairs of Antarctic petrels and 70,000 pairs of Adéle penguins. Scullin Monolith is only 160 kilometres from Mawson and it took the helicopters over three hours to reach the area, including a refuel stop at Sansom Island.

The aircraft were tasked to Scullin to remove an old fuel depot that was left over from a previous research expedition to the area several years ago. While the helicopters were able to land directly on the rock at Scullin and prepare the drums for transport, the Twin Otter landed on the snow at nearby Mt Hinks to provide additional fuel for the helicopters and then transport the fuel drums removed from Scullin back to Davis. The entire operation went off without a hitch and was completed in record time considering the distances involved.

Nothing that we do at Davis would be possible without the incredible team work of all involved and special thanks must go to the forecasters, comms operators, AGSO’s, FTO’s, the ops coordinator and our aircraft engineers who all work tirelessly in support of aviation operations.

Dave L (Senior Helicopter Pilot)

The helicopter is shut down on a rocky area. Behind it the ice of the plateau is visible. The sun is shining and the helicopter is a bright red colour.
The helicopter at Nunatak one, for a geophysics project.
(Photo: David Lomas)
Scullin Monolith: an ampitheatre of rock cliff. It has cliff faces several hundred metres high, soaring straight up from the ocean.
The spectacular Scullin Monolith.
(Photo: David Lomas)
A helicopter is in the air and slinging fuel drums towards a plane on the ice. In the background is Mt Hinks.
Slinging fuel drums to the Twin Otter at Mt Hinks.
(Photo: Brandon Shendruk)
The red helicopter flies over a heavily crevassed glacier. Heading home after a day of work out in the field.
Helicopter returning from mission.
(Photo: David Lomas)

Fire training and the car wash

Some things that we do at home just don't work out down here, well at least that's what we found out when we tried to have our annual car wash. Turns out that as it's so cold you need a bit more protection than just bathers!

Who am I kidding. When we do things down here we try to do them in the most efficient manner possible due to the lack of available or replenishable resources, and none more so then the fresh water supply at Davis station.

We make our water here via a process called Reverse Osmosis (RO). This takes a large amount of energy as well as the fact the water you start with has to be liquid, algae free and preferably above 2° C to limit losses to heat it, thus we can really only run the RO plant here from about early January to late February. So when we needed to flush the fresh water lines through the fire hydrants we took the chance to also run a fire exercise and also give the stations vehicles a much needed clean.

Two different scenarios were planned, the first was simulating an entry through the doorway of a burning building and also conducting perimeter cooling to limit damage to surrounding assets. This went well and gave the first team some good experience using water, as we just can't afford to waste it here even for training.

The second exercise simulated a set of parked vehicles where the vehicles in the middle had caught fire. The second team went in and practiced their skills at extinguishing the fire as well as perimeter cooling the other vehicles. It was a good bit of fun and at the same time we got the chance to do some much needed training and also flushed the water lines out.

Well done to the whole team.

Sharky (Fire Chief)
Five people in fire fighting gear are standing next to the fire truck (Hägg). Two people are in mask and breathing apparatus. The other three are working with the hoses.
The team gear up at the fire Hägg in preparation of fighting…
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Four people in fire fighting gear and breathing appartus are crouched down in front of an open shipping container. They are putting out a pretend fire in the container.
Scenario 1: fire in a shipping container.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Two people in breathing apparatus are hosing down a pink Hägg in a mock fire.
Scenario 2: fighting vehicle fires.
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
Jock is seen brushing the side of the pink Hägg with a broom. This is to help dislodge the dirt before the fire hose does another sweep of the vehicles.
Jock can't help himself and steps in during the drill with a…
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)