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People deplane from aircraft onto ice.
Photo Credit: Alasdair Turner
Passengers deplane from a C-17 on Aug. 24. The first WinFly flights arrived at McMurdo Station after a four-day delay due to storms, which packed winds up to 80 miles per hour.

Safe landings

Five flights arrive at McMurdo Station in August to prepare USAP for 2014-15 season

Person directs airplane on the ground.
Photo Credit: Andrew Smith
An airfield ground crew member directs an Australian Airbus A319.
Passengers inside an airplane.
Photo Credit: Alasdair Turner
Passengers sit inside a C-17.
Three large orange vehicles loaded with cargo.
Photo Credit: Andrew Smith
Three Delta vehicles are loaded with cargo at Pegasus Airfield.

A storm packing 80-mile-per-hour winds slammed into McMurdo Station External U.S. government site earlier this month, delaying the first flights to the U.S. Antarctic Program's External U.S. government site largest research base by four days.

More than 200 people started arriving by U.S. and Australian aircraft on Aug. 24 (local time) after waiting in Christchurch, New Zealand, for a break in the weather. Two passenger flights arrived on Aug. 24, followed by two more on Aug 26. There haven't been any flights to McMurdo since March.

"I can tell you that the Con 1 we had last week was one of the worst I’ve seen," said Catherine Salazar, who wintered over at McMurdo this year, working as a utilities mechanic. She has worked on and off with the U.S. Antarctic Program since 2005-06, including several winters.

Con 1, or Condition 1, is one of three categories by which weather conditions are defined. Condition 1 represents the worst weather conditions, and can involve wind speeds greater than 55 knots (about 63 mph), wind chills colder than minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit or visibility of less than 100 feet.

The August flights are part of what's known as WinFly, for winter fly-in, which brings in mostly support personnel – from mechanics and cooks to carpenters and electricians – to prepare the station to support scientific research across the continent. The field season is scheduled to begin Sept. 29. [See related article — Getting busy: Flights headed to McMurdo Station this month to ready USAP for 2014-15 field season.]

The first flight to Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station External U.S. government site is set for Oct. 27. The New York Air National Guard, which flies the ski-equipped LC-130 External U.S. government site, is scheduled to make 91 trips between McMurdo and South Pole before mid-February.

Airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord External U.S. government site operate the C-17 Globemaster III External Non-U.S. government site, while the Australian Antarctic Division External Non-U.S. government site uses an Airbus A319 External Non-U.S. government site. Both planes use Pegasus Airfield External U.S. government site, a permanent, hard-ice runway located about 14 miles from McMurdo, on the glacial ice of the McMurdo Ice Shelf.

Shortly after the last WinFly flight arrived – a night-vision goggle mission by the U.S. Air Force that delivered cargo only on Aug. 27 – another condition 1 storm moved into the region.

Click here for more WinFly photos.

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Curator: Michael Lucibella, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Peter West, Office of Polar Programs