In the dark
First USAP flight since March lands in Antarctica during winter night
Posted August 17, 2010
The first U.S. Antarctic Program flight to Antarctica landed safely at Pegasus airfield near McMurdo Station on Aug. 15, 2010, ushering in the 2010 Winfly season. Winfly is the time between winter and the summer when additional support personnel, such as carpenters and cooks, arrive to prepare the station for the upcoming science field season. Several groups of scientists are also scheduled to arrive during Winfly to take advantage of the atmospheric conditions at that time of year, as well as to study the foraging behavior of seals under dark conditions. [See related stories: Ramping up, Night hunt and Flying high.] The flight was particularly noteworthy for the use of night-vision goggles, which help the C-17 pilots land on the ice runway in the dark in conjunction with reflective runway markers. The Air Force first tested the capability in 2008, but this is the first year passengers flew on a night-vision mission. About 120 people were aboard the plane. Seven flights are planned for the month of August before the main summer field season begins in late September.