Vol 6, No. 1
By Maj. Robert Bullock
The USAP, funded and managed by the NSF, consists of research in Antarctica in the fields of earth sciences, glaciology, biology, medicine, oceanography, meteorology and astrophysics.
The 109th's mission is to use the heavy cargo-carrying capacity of the Lockheed Martin-built LC-130 to re-supply Admunsen-Scott South Pole Station and remote research sites located throughout the Antarctic continent and facilitate the movement of cargo and personnel between McMurdo Station, Antarctica and Christchurch, New Zealand. Using the aircraft's skis, which are integral to the airframe, 109th crews from throughout the Capital Region and the northeast fly to prepared snow and ice runways and, when missions require, fly to open snow (unprepared sites). Six of the aircraft presently operated by the 109th are owned by the US Air Force. The newest aircraft is owned by the NSF.
"...I don't think that there is a flying unit anywhere which could have adapted to operating in temperatures which routinely drop to minus 40 degrees and winds which can gust to more than 100 miles per hour..."
Selection of the 109th by the NSF to assume program responsibility for airlift support to the USAP, and Congressional authorization to effect the transfer to the unit, came after the Guard strategically presented the benefits of using an organization which had successfully provided heavy airlift in the Arctic since 1975 and supported science in the northern pole region since 1978. Additionally, the 109th was able to point to its work in the Antarctic which began in 1988 at the request of the NSF.
According to Air National Guard officials, consolidating the northern and southern polar operations under the 109th enabled aircrews to operate in polar environments during both the austral (southern) and boreal (northern) summers: the seasons during which most scientific research is conducted. In this way, dollars spent on air operations would be used with optimum efficiency, creating economies of scale for the NSF.
During the 1998-99 Antarctic season, the 109th's air support will be augmented by the US Navy's VXE-6 Squadron. Total airlift responsibilities will be assumed by the 109th in 1999. In that year, the 109th will become the only operator of the LC-130 Hercules aircraft in the world.
"This is an attainment that those responsible for out entry into the ski-flying business never dreamed of," said Col. Graham Pritchard, Air Commander for the 109th, architect for the 109th's expanded mission, and veteran ski pilot of 28 years.
"Over the past two decades, I don't think that there is a flying unit anywhere which could have adapted to operating in temperatures which routinely drop to minus 40 degrees and winds which can gust to more than 100 miles per hour. The success of this unit in polar environments is a true testimony of the ability of Guard personnel to perform vital military missions in extreme environments," he said.New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs:January-February Issue of Guard Times published: 22 April 1998 (mjs)
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