Ice Runway

Trip Start Aug 16, 2007
Trip End Apr 07, 2008

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Michelle says:

I have recently been given the opportunity to join the Ice Runway crew! In addition to Aaron and a few other DA's I will be assisting with the meal services at the Ice Runway for a few days out of the week.

I have worked 2 dinner shifts out there so far and really like it! It is A LOT more calm and relaxed compared to the main galley! We mostly only serve about 40-60 folks per meal as opposed to 1,000+. The majority of our guest are fire fighters, air traffic controllers, military personnel, cargo crew, and maintenance workers.

One of the benefits of being out at the runway is getting a chance to watch the planes land and take off. On my last shift I was able to see a C-17 (what we flew in on) land and circle around the runway. As it passed a few of the LC-130's I snapped the perfect picture to show it's monstrous size!

In about a week they will take the runway apart and transport the entire set up to another location on on the permanent ice shelf called Willy Field. All of the buildings are on skies so they will be hooked up to big tractors and pulled out there in a caravan. I am very anxious to see this transition! Apparently they can get the whole set up (about 20 buildings) relocated and ready to go in 24 hours!

Here are a few 'interesting facts' about our five airfields:

The U.S. Antarctic Program operates five airfields from late winter through the austral summer season. The airfields are: 1) Pegasus White Ice runway, 2) Annual Sea Ice runway, 3) Williams Field skiway, 4) Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station skiway, and 5) Odell emergency landing site. The first three airfields are located within the local McMurdo area. The fourth is located at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The fifth is located approximately 120 miles from McMurdo. Each of the airfields is unique in its own way. Their structure and surrounding weather elements affect their construction, maintenance, and operation. A brief overview of each airfield facility follows.
Pegasus White Ice Runway (where we landed during WINFLY)
Approximately 18 miles from McMurdo Station on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Pegasus white ice runway is the most unique of the runway systems in the USAP. The airfield sits on an approximately 110-foot thick glaciated shelf with three to four inches of compacted snow on top, better known as "white ice." Pegasus consists of a 10,000-foot long and 150-foot wide single runway, fuel pit, and parking area, and does not include a crosswind
runway. Depending on the planning of flights, approximately four to six C-141 or C-17 flights land and depart from Pegasus during the WINFLY period. The runway is then closed until early January as the annual sea ice runway and Williams Field skiway are utilized throughout most of the summer season. Pegasus is not used throughout this time due to its distance from McMurdo.
Annual Sea Ice Runway (where we are working right now)
The annual sea ice runway operates from October to December of each year. While open, the airfield supports aircraft operations that consist of C-5, C-17, C-141, C-130, LC-130, and Twin Otter aircraft. The annual sea ice runway system is composed of approximately three miles of sea ice road extending from the transition of land and sea ice from McMurdo to the Mobile Runway Support Facilities (MRSF) at the airfield site. Landing surfaces consist of a main and crosswind runway, both of which are 10,000 feet long and 220 feet wide.
By mid-December the airfield is closed due to the melting of the sea ice. After this time aircraft operations are transferred to the Williams Field skiway, a process which takes two days. Wheeled aircraft operation transfers to Pegasus white ice runway later during the austral summer, in approximately early January.
Williams Field Skiway (where we are moving to)
Williams Field skiway operates from December to February of each year and is built on the Ross Ice Shelf approximately seven miles via snow road from McMurdo. This site sits on approximately 25 feet of compacted snow, lying on top of 260 feet of ice, floating over 1,800 feet of water. Williams Field skiway is utilized by LC-130 and Twin Otter ski equipped aircraft.
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Skiway
South Pole skiway operates from October to February of each year. Located at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, the skiway is 14,000 feet long, 300 feet wide, and rests on top of 9,300 feet of accumulated snow and ice. Snow is compacted and the skiway is made level by towing implements. Maintenance of the skiway is done daily to prevent drifting and to keep the landing surface as compact as possible.
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