NSF PR 03-137 - December 5, 2003
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
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
Both incidents are under investigation, which is standard
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