10 November, 2003

7 November 2003 A British Antarctic Survey (BAS) aircraft was damaged as it landed at Rothera Research Station on Friday 7 November. No-one was injured. The aircraft was returning from a routine re-supply flight to Fossil Bluff, a remote field station situated on Alexander Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. Strong, gusting winds lifted the tail of the De Havilland Twin Otter, causing it to invert as it completed its landing. The pilot, a captain of 10 years Antarctic flying experience, and the other person onboard escaped unhurt. The Falkland Islands Director of Civil Aviation, where the aircraft is registered, has been informed and has taken appropriate regulatory measures. The aircraft will be out of service for the remainder of the Antarctic field season while a full assessment of damage and repairs are carried out. It is expected that the other three BAS Twin Otter Aircraft will be in a position to make additional flights to minimise the impact on planned field operations.

Notes for editors:

Antarctic Weather

Sudden strong and gusty easterly winds appearing without warning are a known feature of weather at Rothera Research Station. This is caused by katabatic wind flow from the mountains to the east and is unpredictable. Experienced Antarctic pilots are familiar with these conditions. The de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft is a high wing, twin engine, turbo prop aircraft capable of carrying up to twenty passengers in the commuter role. The aircraft has a wing span of 65 ft (19.8 m), length of 51 ft 9 in (15.7 m). The Twin Otter is one of the de Havilland family of “bush” aircraft noted for their rugged construction and Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) performance. The version operated by the British Antarctic Survey is the wheel/ski equipped aircraft which has the capability to land on snow and ice or hard runways. These rugged aircraft are the backbone of the BAS Antarctic field operations. They carry the scientists out into their field locations, they resupply them or move them during the season, and then recover the party to Rothera or Halley stations at the completion of their projects. Modifications to the aircraft allow the fit of airborne surveying equipment, including dual magnetometer, ice depth radio echo sounder, gravimeter, ocean colour sensors, and large and small format cameras for mapping and bird and seal census. The aircraft also provide the BAS with an Antarctic search and rescue capability. BAS operates four Twin Otters of which one has a full remote sensing capability. In a typical season the planes will arrive in the Antarctic in late October and depart in early March. In total they will fly for around 1600 hours in the Antarctic supporting the BAS Programme. Fossil Bluff is used as a meteorological outpost and re-fuelling station for BAS.

British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) undertakes a world-class programme of science in the Antarctic and related regions, addressing key global and regional issues through research, survey and monitoring. BAS also helps to discharge the UK’s international responsibilities under the Antarctic Treaty System. British Antarctic Survey is part of the Natural Environment Research Council.