Helicopter Operations in Antarctica

As we often mention, helicopters provide vital support for operations around the world and even in the most remote setting, Antarctica, they are mission critical.

Shasta Sevcik, a former Hillsboro employee who was recently stationed in Antarctica supporting the US Antarctic Program, gave us a first-hand account of how helicopters are being used to support these research operations. Here are some comments from her regarding the aviation operations: 

The helicopter contractor this year is Air Center Helicopters based out of Texas. There are two AS350Bs and two Bell 412s here at McMurdo (US Antartic research station). The helicopters support activities within an 80 km radius of McMurdo, which includes many of the science camps in the Dry Valleys. Air Center Helicopters' team includes pilots, mechanics, and Helitechs to ensure the success of their operations.

There was a cool helicopter and airplane mission that just finished here. NASA has a facility here that launches Long Duration Balloons that are massive and circle the continent a couple of times throughout the season collecting data. When it's time to bring them down, they remotely terminate the flight which tears the balloon and deploys a parachute over the payload for a soft landing. They try to terminate it close enough to a camp of fuel cache so it can be recovered by aircraft. Yesterday, they finished recovery of one of the balloons out on the flat white polar plateau with a Twin Otter and two helicopters. One helicopter sling loaded the large mirror component unable to fit in the Twin Otter in a custom-built wooden crate and flew it all the way back to McMurdo while the other one provide search-and-rescue coverage. The Twin Otter took the remainder of the mirror rigging back so that nothing is left behind.

Check out some of the photos of Air Center Helicopters at work to support the National Science Foundation and the US Antarctic Program.


Photo credit: Shasta Sevcik



Photo Credit: Shasta Sevcik


Photo credit: Pilot Bryan Minnear, Air Center Helicopters



Photo credit: Pilot Bryan Minnear, Air Center Helicopters


Photo credit: Pilot Bryan Minnear, Air Center Helicopters