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People depart plane at night.
Photo Credit: Holly Troy
Passengers disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-17 plane at McMurdo Station. Six flights from New Zealand to McMurdo in late August transported personnel and cargo. It was minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit at Pegasus White Ice Runway when the first flight arrived on Aug. 23.

Boomerangs and bad weather

Storms delay first planes to McMurdo Station before flights get on schedule

Late August storms around McMurdo Station External U.S. government site delayed the first U.S. Antarctic Program External U.S. government site flights to Antarctica since March, but the last of six planned flights finally took place on Aug. 31 (local time), officially ending the winter fly-in period called Winfly, when new personnel arrive to ready the research station for the upcoming field season that begins in October.

Machines with trailers of cargo.
Photo Credit: Holly Troy
Cargo brought by the C-17 is prepared for transport to McMurdo Station.

A C-17 Globemaster III External U.S. government site aircraft operated by the 62nd and 446 Airlift Wings out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord External U.S. government site in Washington state transported about 300 people from Christchurch, New Zealand, to McMurdo. The Air Force also took some passengers north, leaving about 400 people at the station at the end of August.

The first flight, which carried 128 passengers, attempted to land as early as Aug. 20 before returning to Christchurch because of bad weather in McMurdo, turning a five-hour flight into an 11-hour boomerang. Storms continued to rage until Aug. 23, when the first flight finally landed. The second passenger flight was also delayed due to mechanical issues and more poor weather, landing Aug. 27. It was smooth flying after that, with the final four flights arriving on successive days. The last three were mainly cargo flights, carrying everything from mail to fresh fruit and vegetables to equipment used for overland traverses by tractor.

The 2012-13 summer field season is scheduled to begin Oct. 1. [See previous article — Open season: Winter flights scheduled to begin Aug. 20 as McMurdo prepares for summer fieldwork.]

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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs