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Transport in Antarctica

Transport in Antarctica takes place by air, using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Runways and helicopter pads have to be kept snow free to ensure safe take off and landing conditions.

Antarctica has 20 airports, but there are no developed public-access airports or landing facilities. Thirty stations, operated by 16 national governments party to the Antarctic Treaty, have landing facilities for either helicopters and/or fixed-wing aircraft; commercial enterprises operate two additional air facilities.

Helicopter pads are available at 27 stations; runways at 15 locations are gravel, sea-ice, blue-ice, or compacted snow suitable for landing wheeled, fixed-wing aircraft; of these, one is greater than 3 km in length, six are between 2 km and 3 km in length, 3 are between 1 km and 2 km in length, three are less than 1 km in length, and two are of unknown length; snow surface skiways, limited to use by ski-equipped, fixed-wing aircraft, are available at another 15 locations; of these, four are greater than 3 km in length, three are between 2 km and 3 km in length, two are between 1 km and 2 km in length, two are less than 1 km in length, and data is unavailable for the remaining four.

Antarctic airports are subject to severe restrictions and limitations resulting from extreme seasonal and geographic conditions; they do not meet ICAO standards, and advance approval from the respective governmental or nongovernmental operating organization is required for landing (1999 est.) Flights to the continent in the permanent darkness of the winter are normally only undertaken in an emergency, with burning barrels of fuel to outline a runway. On September 11, 2008, a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster III successfully completed the first landing in Antarctica using night-vision goggles at Pegasus Field.

In April 2001 an emergency evacuation of Dr. Ronald Shemenski was needed from Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station when he contracted pancreatitis. Three C-130 Hercules were called back before their final leg because of weather. Organizers then called on Kenn Borek Air based in Calgary, Alberta. Two de Havilland Twin Otters were dispatched out of Calgary with one being back-up. Twin Otters are specifically designed for the Canadian north and Kenn Borek Air's motto is "Anywhere, Anytime, World-Wide". The mission was a success but not without difficulties and drawbacks. Ground crews needed to create a 2 km runway with tracked equipment not designed to operate in the low temperatures at that time of year, the aircraft controls had to be "jerry-rigged" when the flaps were frozen in position after landing, and instruments were not reliable because of the cold. When they saw a "faint pink line on the horizon" they knew they were going in the right direction. This was the first rescue from the South Pole during winter. Canada honoured the Otter crew for bravery.

Source: Wikipedia

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