Twin Otter aircraft

The Twin Otter is a high-wing, twin-engine, turbo-prop aircraft. They are used all over the world and are known for their rugged construction, reliability and short take-off and landing performance. In other parts of the world, Twin Otters are often termed a ‘bush’ aircraft as they are designed for remote environments.

BAS Twin Otter Aircraft in flight over the Antarctic Peninsula
BAS Twin Otter VP-FAZ seen close to Rothera Research Station, clearly showing the ski configuration

The Twin Otters are extremely versatile and can be modified to allow airborne surveying and other scientific equipment to be fitted.

The aircraft can be operated single pilot and with a long-range fuel tank. Double cargo doors provide good access for installing instrument racks.

The version operated by BAS is the wheel/ski-equipped aircraft which lands on snow, ice or any other type of hard runways in remote areas.

Unloading science kit from a BAS Twin-Otter aircraft at deep-field site
Unloading science kit from a BAS Twin-Otter aircraft at the SLE field site


The De Havilland Canada Twin Otters (DHC-6) are a vital part of BAS Antarctic operations. In general they work in the Antarctic from October through to March each year depending on projects.

During a typical season they will transport people, fuel, skidoos, sledges, food and scientific equipment to remote camps, landing on skis on unprepared snow. The planes will also lay depots and stockpile fuel for field science parties.

In addition to its role ferrying people and supplies between Rothera and the Falkland Islands or Punta Arenas, the Dash-7 also lands on the blue-ice runway at Sky-Blu – a staging post for deeper forays into the continent.

During the Antarctic summer one of the Twin Otters is based at Halley Research Station to support projects in the eastern sector of BAS operations, covering an area up to 800km from the station.

These versatile aircraft support the following areas of science

  • Remote sensing of land, ice and sea
  • Meteorology and measurement of aerosols in clouds
  • Airborne geophysics research capabilities using an instrument suite includes ice-penetrating radar, gravimeter, magnetometers and laser scanner

A man wearing sunglasses taking a selfie.

Mark Thomas

Head of Airworthiness and Aircraft Engineering

Air Operations team

A man in front of a research station

Carl Robinson

Head of Airborne Survey Technology

Antarctic marine engineering team

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