Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kenn Borek Airlines de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters

October 5, 2013. Two Twin Otters arrived from Calgary, Canada. They are contracted out by the NSF to provide air service around the continent between the main stations and many science camps. From Canada they travel to Texas, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, and Punta Arenas, Argentina. They refuel and overnight at each of these stops. With two added cans of fuel onboard they have a flying range of 12 hours, at 140-150 knots, and an altitude of 12,000 feet. I talked with one of the pilots who said the trip and view is fantastic. There are two pilots along with a mechanic on each plane.

They then cross over Cape Horn and the Drake Passage before landing at Rothera Research Station, which is a British Antarctic Survey Base. From there it is a refueling stop at the South Pole. Due to inclement weather in McMurdo they spent the night.

After I arrived here in early January a Twin Otter left the South Pole headed to an Italian Base in Antarctica's Terra Nova Bay. The plane crashed into the summit of a steep mountain range. After several days the plane was found but there were no survivors. An attempt to recover the bodies may be made this summer.

Rothera Research Station

There is a world out there! The first plane since station closing.

They brought freshies! Bananas, apples, and kiwi.

A fine sight! Two Twin Otters on deck!

To most of you this may seem like nothing. But this half a banana I selected was great.

Two Twin Otters flew in from Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula. The peninsula is south of South America.

A fine plane purpose built for extremely cold weather. During the Antarctic winter they work in the Arctic.

There is a concrete runway at Rothera. Before leaving there the wheels are removed and wheel-skis are installed. Five miles out of Rothera the Otter lands on top of a flat mountaintop. There the wheel-skis are removed and these board skis are installed for the South Pole and beyond.

They carry a lot of equipment and supplies down from Canada. This Otter will be contracted out to the Australian Antarctic Program.

Kenn Borek also contracts out to various Antarctic tourist agencies.

The Otter is plugged in and heated.

This Otter is contracted to the USAP.

The ski tracks leading to the Otter apron.
Twin Otter McMurdo bound October 7th.

The 2nd Otter leaving. In this video you can see ice crystals in the air. It really doesn't snow here but it sparkles.


  1. So these planes can be equipped with wheels, wheel-skis, or board skis? Am I getting that right? The whole land on a flat mountain top and change equipment sounds a little tricky to the uninitiated.

    1. On the flight from Calgary to Argentina the Otter uses wheels. Rothera has a concrete runway that can be icy or snow covered so they change to wheel skies for landing there. For normal ice operation the wheels are removed and replaced with boards once leaving Rothera. There is a convenient and easy spot on a nearby mountain for this. When the LC-130 Hercules arrive in the few weeks they land on wheel skis with the wheels retracted. Once stopped the skis are retracted and the wheels are on the ground as the ski will freeze to the skiway. The Herc is only on the ground for 30 minutes before the hydraulics start freezing.
      The Twin Otter will be equipped in the wheel/ski configuration which means the pilot has the option of landing on wheels on prepared runways, such as the McMurdo ice runway in the Antarctic and during the ferry flight to the Antarctic, or he can select skis for field landings during the polar crossings.

      The skis are operated by hydraulics, and a system of hydraulic rams moves the skis up and down around the fixed undercarriage. The undersurfaces of the skis are coated in a teflon-type finish which is designed to prevent the skis from sticking to the ice or snow when parked overnight. from:

    2. I know how you feel about the freshies and I try to save the fruit that children toss out every day on their lunch trays. It must be exciting to have new people there and to know you will be leaving soon.Of course, I know you will miss the peace and quiet....for there is nothing like being alone with your thoughts. Miss you and love always, Andee