By Eric DurrMarch 11, 2016
STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, N.Y.--The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing transported 3,900 people, and carried 4 million pounds of supplies and 1.2 million pounds of fuel to stations around Antarctica during its annual support five-month mission for the National Science Foundation which ended this week.
The wing, which flies the LC-130, a Hercules transport equipped with skies, began flying missions in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program in October, 2015 as part of Operation Deep Freeze, the U.S. military's support for Antarctic research.
The wing wrapped up its mission at the end of February and the six LC-130 "Ski Birds" -- the only ski-equipped aircraft in the U.S. inventory--and support personnel began returning to the air base near Schenectady, N.Y.
During the support season 500 Airmen served at McMurdo Station, the main American base in Antarctica, in support of the mission.
The last of the Airmen and aircraft are expected home on Saturday, March 12.
During the 2015-2016 season the wing flew 18 missions using a system known as IcePod. The pod latches onto the standard rear paratroop door of the LC-130 Hercules and the system can be easily switched from plane-to-plane. A GPS system records the plane's location every ten seconds so scientists can pinpoint the data they are getting on what is below the ice.
The IcePod imaging system allows scientists to measure the depth of the Antarctic ice sheet and produce three dimensional models of the sea floor beneath Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf, an area as large as the state of Texas.
At the end of this season, the 109th Airlift Wing gave a lift to 35 Australian Antarctic researchers heading back home on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Eight members of the 109th flew an LC-130, based at McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program's logistics hub at the southern tip of Ross Island, to the Australian Antarctic Division Davis station, 1,400 miles away on the other side of the continent.
The Australian researchers had been scheduled to leave Davis station on board the icebreaker RVS Aurora Australia. The ship, though, ran aground at Australia's Mawson research station after it broke its mooring lines in a blizzard.
The 109th has been supporting the National Science Foundation's research since 1988.
Since 1999, the unit has been the sole provider of this type of airlift to for science research in Antarctica and Greenland. The 109th has also supported Canadian Forces exercises in the High Arctic.