Up, up and away: 2003–04 aircraft operations

Fixed wing feats

Two DeHavilland DHC-6 (Twin Otter) aircraft and aircrew, supplied by Kenn Borek Air Ltd of Calgary, Canada, played a large part in the successful completion of one of the largest and most varied AAD flying programs ever.

Early in the season, in a forerunner to the 2004–05 introduction of CASA 212–400 aircraft, Mawson expeditioners and cargo were flown to and from Davis to connect with Voyage 2. The aircraft, able to be flown solely on instruments and equipped with de-icing gear, completed the flights on schedule despite varying weather conditions.

Twin Otters were based at Davis and Casey as required through the season supporting deep field programs such as AMISOR and ITASE. Areas of operation included the Grove Mountains, Prince Charles and Southern Prince Charles Mountains, Komsomolskiy Peak, Amery Ice Shelf and up to 1000 kms east of Casey. Operation of these aircraft from our stations has given valuable insight into the levels of personnel, types of equipment, fuelling facilities, vehicles and infrastructure required to support future fixed wing flight programs.

The operation of station-based, fixed wing aircraft also resulted in a higher degree of international collaboration with visits to Mirny (Russia), Dome C (Italy/France) and McMurdo (USA) stations. Davis and Casey stations provided logistic support to a visiting Twin Otter operated by the Italians in November and December. The aircraft conducted an ice radar survey over a large area and also performed some specific flights over the Amery Ice Shelf at AAD request. Further international collaboration also occurred late in January with a team from Davis assisting in the recovery of equipment from a NASA weather balloon which was launched from McMurdo and landed south west of BeaverLake.

Helicopter operations

Versatile and efficient AS350BA (Squirrel) helicopters on contract from Helicopter Resources completed yet another busy season for the AAD. These aircraft, used by the AAD since 1986–87, perform a variety of tasks including marine science support, ice reconnaissance (for ship navigation through ice) ship-to-shore resupply of stations, MacquarieIsland operations and station-based support.

Initial deployment of three of these aircraft on Voyage 1 saw completion of 150 hours of ship based flying in support of glaciological and oceanographic programs. The aircraft were then operated from Davis between November and February undertaking, amongst other tasks, lake sampling in the Vestfold Hills, geological programs in the Larsemann Hills, glaciological programs on the Amery Ice Shelf and updating of GPS base line and map data in the PrinceCharlesMountains. The aircraft also assisted the Chinese Antarctic Research Expeditions (CHINARE) in resupply and change over of personnel at their Larsemann Hills station, Zhongshan. A crucial new role for the Davis based helicopters is supporting Davis fixed wing operations after the sea ice has dispersed providing the link between the station and the plateau skiway 12–13 kms away.

First C212-400 aircraft rolls off the production line

The first of two new C212-400 aircraft was delivered to Skytraders in early April. The aircraft has since been fitted with skis and undergone a period of test flying in northern Canada in preparation for operations in Antarctica in the coming season.

The aircraft will fly directly from Hobart to Antarctica at the start of the season and be based at Davis and Casey throughout the summer. The range of the aircraft will allow direct flights between Casey, Davis and Mawson and to remote field locations.

Runway construction trials complete

This season saw the completion of trial construction of the Casey ice runway. A 4000m by 100m area of blue ice was graded and tested to confirm the integral structure of the glacial ice surface to support wheeled aircraft operations. A laser-controlled grader was used to remove undulations on the surface before snow and ice was blown clear by a snow blower. Further testing using a snow compaction roller confirmed that the density and strength parameters required for jet aircraft landings could be met throughout the season.

Charlton Clark, Air Transport Project, AAD