factor which plays any significant role in this high adventure in the

far north is the dedication and skill of the aircrews who carry-out the

annual airlift operation.  For the most part, they and the ski-equipped

C-130's represent the only physical links the ice-captive Dye Sites

have with the outside world.


Every landing and take-off made on the ice cap is a calculated

risk resting solely in the skill of the men in the cockpit.  Airborne

radar and "being talked-in" are standard procedures for each landing.

The runways and parking ramps servicing the Dye Sites consist of no

more than bulldozer smoothed stretches of ice and snow.  Diesel fuel

and other POL products air lifted by C-130 aircraft to the Dye Sites are

packaged in 500 gallon collapsible bladders at Sondrestrom from the

main tank farm.  These bladders, like the larger ones used for storage

at the sites are cylindrical in form.  They were originally so designed

for quick unloading operations, but unfortunately this is limited to

hard surface operation.  There, they can be rolled out of the aircraft

and to storage, by one or two men relying only on muscle- power.  On ice,

especially Chat covered with a coat of loose snow, this becomes a physi-

cal impossibility.  Consequently, when the "Bladders" are filled at

Sondrestrom, they are lashed in pairs on heavy equipment drop pallets.

Three such pallets constitute a full C-130 load which represents three

thousand gallons or about 25,000 pounds.  From time to time, small

amounts of miscellaneous materiel, supplies, personnel, mail, etc, are

also carried with the three pallets.  On arrival at the Dye Sites, bull-

dozers, winches and sleds are used to drag the pallets from the C-130's

cargo hold and to the storage tank area.  As empty bladders accumulateat the Dye Sites they are loaded on the empty C-130's for the return trip to Sondrestrom.


Fighting for every minute of flyable weather, this operation is

highly reminiscent of other famous air lifts of past USAF history.  Sel-

dom, unless the airworthiness of the aircraft is suspect, are engines

shut down for the off-loading operation.  While the engines idle, waiting

ice cap ground crews join forces with the C-130 loadmasters to draw these

ungainly cargoes onto the snow and permit speedy returns to Sondrestrom

for the next load.  Under ideal conditions - if all goes well, if tied-

down chains don't snarl, if the load doesn't skew and hang-up in the

cargo compartment - the C-130 can discharge its load of six bladders in about 20 to 25 minutes.  Unloading difficulties in the Arctic tempera-

tures even in its "summer-time" are frequent, however, and turn-around

unloadings are not achieved on every sortie.  The altitudes at which the

Dye Sites #2 and #3 are located also contribute to the difficulties of

unloading.  Dye Site #2 has an altitude of 7650 feet and #3 lies at about

8700 feet.  The air gets thin at this height especially where heavy

manual exertion is required of personnel accustomed to much lower levels.

This is especially hard on the aircrew personnel assisting with the off-

loading operation.  The normally prevailing sub-zero temperatures also

contribute liberally to the further discomfort of these arduous physical

demands.  This, then, is the broad picture of the annual POL airlift to

the interior ice cap radar sites.  Against this challenging and forbidding

backdrop, Captain Glenn and his crew established a unique and unparalleled

record of achievement.




Page 3


Back to Top