STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NY – The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing launched the first of five LC-130 “Skibird” aircraft to Antarctica on October 19 to support research for the National Science Foundation.
The LC-130 version of the C-130 Hercules is the largest aircraft in the world capable of landing on snow and ice on skis. Aircraft are fitted with eight-blade propellers for turboprops to provide additional power.
Throughout the four-month support season, 420 Airmen will be deployed for the mission.
Airmen will operate from the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, transporting personnel and supplies across the continent from November through March.
During Operation Deep Freeze, the Navy and Air Force work together to resupply US science stations in Antarctica.
“With a standard four-month season of operations on the Antarctic continent ahead of us, I am extremely confident in the men and women of the 109th and their ability to execute our specialized mission with the highest level of professional skill,” said said the Colonel. Christian Sander, the commander of the 109th Airlift Wing.
The 109th Airlift Wing is essential in supporting climate research and other scientific activities during the Antarctic summer.
“This season should be like a ‘normal’ pre-COVID operational model where crews and support staff are swapped regularly throughout the season. Some COVID mitigation precautions will be taken to minimize impacts in Antarctica,” said Major Shay Price, the wing’s chief Antarctic operations officer.
The 109th’s primary mission for the 2022-23 season will be to support science efforts at three science camps outside of the McMurdo area.
These are the South Pole Station, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Division Camp, and the Siple Dome Camp. The wing will also support air transport between New Zealand and Antarctica, Price said.
Outpost camps serve as aviation hubs and refueling points for cross-continent travel and scientific research in West Antarctica. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a National Science Foundation research facility at the South Pole.
During the 2021-2022 sustainment season, the 109th Airman flew 40 missions, transporting 204 passengers and 357,926 pounds of cargo to research stations across Antarctica.
Crews also flew 24 missions between bases on the mainland and 16 between Christchurch, New Zealand and Antarctica, including four medical evacuations.
“Deployment teams and support staff are eager to return to a more robust airlift schedule, similar to pre-pandemic deployments,” Price said.
The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military capable of landing at the South Pole and in remote locations in the Antarctic interior and on the ice sheet. from Greenland.