FACTS AND FIGURES
The flight time to Antarctica in a P3 Orion is approximately 7.5 hours
The hottest temperature recorded at Scott Base was positive 8 degrees in January 1970
The runway used by the P3 Orion at Pegasus Airfield is made up of glacier ice topped with a thin layer of snow
Antarctica amounts to 10 percent of the earths land area
Tyre warmers, chains (for securing the aircraft in the event of a storm) and cold weather gear were part of the load taken to Antarctica
The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) came into force in 1982
The orange covers (booties) on the Orion’s wheels are a simple device designed to keep out snow and prevent it from freezing as ice on the wheel mechanism and brake units. They are not heated.
FLTLT Campbell Hardey at the controls over the ice.
able aircraft on the Ice.
Plenty of thought was also given to how the P3 would handle once on the icy ground. When stationary, heat from the Orion tends to melt the ice in a shallow manner. Because of the extreme cold weather the ice refreezes quickly but becomes like a skate rink. Trials were conducted to see how the aircraft would cope in these unfamiliar conditions. “The approach and landing went very well, it was just the taxiing and ground handling that was different,” said aircraft captain, SQNLDR Nielsen.
While an RNZAF P3 has operated in extreme cold weather conditions before (UK, Canada and Iceland) this was the first time the aircraft had operated on an ice runway. Engineers also had to look at how the aircraft’s engines would best be heated before being powered up. The changeable weather was another element for the crew to consider. “The weather condi- tions were perfect for the trial – the wind was light and there was unlimited visibility, but we need to be mindful that conditions can change in a minute,” said SQNLDR Nielsen. The extreme cold and unforgiving conditions meant the crew had to undergo cold weather survival training well prior to the flight trial. The survival training course at Temple Basin had particular emphasis on survival challenges faced by aircrew flying to Antarctica. For the flight commander, SQNLDR Nick Olney seeing the mission through from concept to completion was professionally rewarding.
“It was enormously fulfilling to see all the planning come together. With all the co-ordination and logistics that went into the flight, the crew that conducted it were just the tip of the iceberg!” he said.
With the crew now looking to future tasks it’s time for the chain of command to evaluate the trial flight and decide the next step. The results of the trial will determine if future P3 operations can be conducted from Antarctica or if further trials are required.
AFN67 FEBRUARY 06