In January this year, Davis station played host to a proof of concept project initiated through the Antarctic Modernisation Taskforce as part of future aviation capability development intended to enhance the AAD’s current ‘Inter’ and ‘Intra’ continental aviation capabilities.
The concept, in this case, was to prove that large wheel ski equipped aircraft can operate to semi-prepared ski landing areas in the height of an Antarctic summer. If successful, this would then allow the AAD to consider including this capability in the support of the Australian Antarctic Programme in the future.
The large wheel ski equipped aircraft used in this proof of concept flight was an LC-130 Hercules.
A similar proof of concept flight had been successfully completed at Casey station last year. This year it was Davis’s turn to put theory into practice up at ‘Woop Woop', the Davis Plateau Ski Landing Area (DPSLA).
Preparations for this proving flight had begun in earnest several weeks earlier with the Davis Air Ground Support Officer (AGSO) team and army surveyors preparing an extended ski landing strip to accommodate the specific landing requirements of the Hercules. They did this in conjunction with their regular aviation duties, at all hours of the day and night and in a range of tough weather conditions.
The window of opportunity for the flight was a period of several weeks where the weather windows at Davis, Casey (the alternate landing site) and the American base at McMurdo — the point of departure of the flight — all had to line up to ensure that the aircraft had acceptable conditions to take off, fly and land in. This involved an extended standby period at Davis and Casey where our communications officers, MET teams, AGSOs and a variety of support staff were up at all hours, maintaining contact with the American’s ‘Raven Ops', ably facilitated by our ‘man at McMurdo', the AAD’s Mr Matt Filipowski. Weather conditions postponed the flight on a number of occassions and by mid January our window of opportunity was nearing its end.
Finally, on the 15th of January the clouds parted and the Hercules, complete with six crew and Matt lumbered into the skies above McMurdo and flew the 5.6 hours to Davis. Up at the DPSLA, our AGSO team were there to greet the aircraft as it finally touched down.
The new arrivals were ferried down to Davis very complementary of the ski landing preparations; finding it ‘firm, smooth and fast'. A testament to the landing conditions being the recommendation of a significant maximum departure weight increase arising from the post-mission debrief.
With the stars and stripes flying down on station, the C130 aircrew enjoyed a warm welcome on station. Taken for a tour by DSL David Brett which ended with a taste testing at the brewery and a hearty dinner.
The following morning they departed with an additional four passengers, Scientists Andrew ‘Clobbs’ D, Stacey D and our two resident army surveyors Tony B and Danny P on board. Lifting off with 19 drums of Davis fuel on board and a departure weight of 130,000 lbs the Hercules took to the skies and headed home to McMurdo. Job done.
And concept proven: that large wheel ski equipped aircraft can operate to semi-prepared ski landing areas at the height of an Antarctic summer.
This achievement is due in no small part to the combined efforts of many staff at Kingston, McMurdo, Casey and Davis. Of the latter, congratulations in particular to our AGSOs, comms operators, diesel mechanics, heli-resources crew, MET staff, station support staff and brewmaster / consummate host, Mr David Brett.
Below some technicals on the flight:
- Date of flight
- 15/16th January 2015 Aircraft and six crew remained overnight at Davis
- Cargo McMurdo — Davis
- 881 lbs (Ice Cap Basler equipment boxes)
- Cargo Davis — McMurdo
- 2082 lbs (4 x AAD pax and personal effects)
- Flight time to Davis
- 5.6 hours
- Fuel uplift @ Davis
- 5000 lbs (19 Drums)
- Aircraft departure weight
- 130K lbs