The first aircraft to be used in Antarctica was Henry Mawson’s Vickers REP monoplane. Sadly, it had been damaged in Australia before arriving in Antarctica and was used as an “air tractor” to pull sleds. Even that didn’t work out and it was dumped, eventually being found again only recently.
Given that inauspicious start, it’s hard to believe that there are multiple ice & snow runways in Antarctica receiving visits from C130s, C17s and now an Australian A319 carries scientists on regular flights to the ice. It is also possible to go on one of the QANTAS sight seeing flights that are proving to be very popular with their great views of the ice & mountains.
With all this in mind, we decided to put together a special episode focusing on the land that’s even more “down under” than we are. To kick things off we have an interview with Captain Dan Colborne of Skytraders. Dan flies the Airbus A319/ACJ from Australia to the Wilkins Blue Ice runway in Australian Antarctic territory. He also flies the CASA 212-400 aircraft that are based in Antarctica for the summer, including the long ferry flights at the start & end of the season.
We chat with David Vanderhoof about Air New Zealand Flight 901, the DC-10 that tragically crashed on Mount Erebus during a sight seeing tour over Antarctica in the 70’s. We also discuss some of the other runways on Antarctica and the aircraft that visit them.
The final section in this episode has a discussion with Phil Asker from The Captain’s Choice Tours and Croydon Travel who has been arranging Antarctic sight seeing flights for many years. Working with QANTAS, the flights are in Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 aircraft and are very much in demand, especially the New Years Eve flight.
We talk with Phil about what’s involved in preparing the flights and what passengers can expect to encounter. We also talk with David Halls about what it was like as a passenger on the New Years Eve flight on Dec 31st, 2009. Finally, we prove that nepotism is alive & well in podcasting by bringing Grant’s sister Tania on the show to talk about her time working as a Trolley Dolly (sorry, Flight Attendant) on an Antarctic flight. She also gives Steve LOTS of material to use against Grant, much of it unfit for public consumption (even in the outtakes).
So, put your survival suit on and prepare to meet some penguins as we talk about Antarctica.