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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 03-137 - December 5, 2003

Media contact:

 Peter West

 (703) 292-7761

Two Aircraft in Antarctica Suffer Mechanical Problems

ARLINGTON, Va.— A civilian helicopter and a military cargo plane flying for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Antarctica have suffered apparent mechanical failures in two separate incidents during the past 48 hours. There were no fatalities or injuries in either incident and work is underway to repair both aircrafts and return them to service.

NSF oversees the U.S. Antarctic Program, which manages virtually all U.S. science on the southernmost continent.

On Dec. 4 (Eastern time), the nose ski of an LC-130 "Hercules" cargo plane collapsed while the plane was preparing to take off from a field camp in the Ford Range, a mountainous area in the Marie Byrd Land region of West Antarctica.

The plane was flown by the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which operates the only fleet of ski-equipped C 130s in the world.

The collapse occurred after the plane landed to place a fuel cache in the Ford Range, following an aerial reconnaissance over Mount Moulton. The work was being done to prepare for NSF supported climatology research led by Todd Sowers, of Pennsylvania State University.

The six aircrew and five passengers aboard the LC-130 reported no injuries. They returned to McMurdo Station, NSF's logistical hub in Antarctica, aboard a DeHavilland Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd., of Alberta, Canada, under contract to Raytheon Polar Service Co., NSF's logistical contractor in Antarctica.

The Twin Otter also flew an Air Guard maintenance crew to the incident site to evaluate the LC-130's condition. Officials expect the plane to be repaired on site using spare parts from the 109th's stocks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In a separate incident, a helicopter supporting a paleontology field camp near the Beardmore Glacier experienced a so-called "hard landing" near the camp, damaging the aircraft's skid system. Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), of LaFayette, La., operates NSF's fleet of four helicopters in Antarctica.

One of the remaining three PHI aircraft was sent with spare parts to make repairs so the damaged helicopter could return to McMurdo Station.

Both incidents are under investigation, which is standard procedure.



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