December 6, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
The military has landed transport-category cargo airplanes on ice runways in Antarctica for decades—but a citified Boeing 737? That’s what happened in late November when a chartered PrivatAir 737 touched down at Troll research station 146 miles from the Antarctic coast.
The goal is to make the Nov. 28 flight a regularly scheduled service in 2013.
The flight was arranged by the Norwegian Polar Institute through Aircontact, a Norwegian air charter broker. PrivatAir is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with bases in Germany, and the Congo. The flight originated from South Africa.
The research center, reached Nov. 28, is in the eastern part of Princess Martha Coast, in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.
The research station does environmental and climate monitoring plus mapping. The flight took place during that continent’s summer, with temperatures hovering between 5 degrees Fahrenheit and 24 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the time of day—a heat wave in that part of the world.
The aircraft was equipped with a SatCom system to receive weather updates during the six-hour flight to the 9,800-foot ice runway. The aircraft’s ability to take off and land on ice was analyzed (including engine performance), and two members of the crew received Arctic survival training.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
The caustic combination of crosswind and an ice-crusted runway sent the aircraft skidding into a snow bank built up by plowing along the runway edge.
Pilots focus on preheating the engine during cold weather, but what about the cockpit? More than 30 percent of an aircraft's value is often tied up in the panel.
The thirty-sixth edition of the Bahamas and Caribbean pilot guides are now available as spiral-bound books or iPad apps.
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