Places as isolated as Halley have limited access for obvious reasons, in summer the ships can get up close to the ice shelf and aeroplanes can come and go. These planes can be carrying goods or passengers and will be from various different polar organisations and countries. Given the size of Antarctica planes often have to make several stops on the way between different places. BAS has its own international airport in Rothera – because of its gravel runway and location on the peninsula is a hub for air traffic going off to more remote stations and locations and also coming in from South America. BAS also has staging areas with fuel supplies and ice runways in more deep field locations such as Fossil Bluff and Skyblu. At Halley we have our own ski-way runway.
This summer we had a number of planes coming and going from the Halley ski-way. Nothing as busy as Rothera but over the last few days we’ve had quite a number for us, bringing 2 winterers, taking 2 of last year’s out and bringing spares and fresh food. This has meant a full airport with 3 planes parked up and a temporarily busy base again, after a week of it feeling a bit of a ghost town. Back to sharing rooms for a night or two as the base once again has accents from different parts of the world and a full(er) dining room. Last night I took a trip up to the ski-way to get a shot of the planes parked up – two Twin Otters, one of them BAS and one Kenn Borek Air and also an ACLI Basler aircraft – that’s the one that looks like it belongs in an Indiana Jones film.
The planes that fly down here do so in pretty extreme conditions and the pilots really know how to fly. Watching them come in in bad contrast and poor visibility you can’t tell when the plane stops being in the air and is on the ground. You’ve got to admire the skill of the pilots and the design of the aircraft that have to take-off and land in bad light, freezing conditions and short, snow runways.
So, Planes. Loads of em. Everyone love planes don’t they. Especially ones with skis on em…
Oh yeah, and I might very well be flying one of these later this year. Yeah, not flying in it. FLYING IT.
Edited to add: Just been out refueling one of two BAS twin otters that are in tonight and when I’d done I set off on my ski-doo along side the plane as it was taxi-ing. It was a bit like that scene in Top Gun with Maverick on his bike alongside the fighter plane. Only with more ice. But less Val Kilmer, obviously.