RNZAF jet lands on ice

ICE MOVE: The Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 safely on the ground at McMurdo.
ICE MOVE: The Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 safely on the ground at McMurdo.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 has successfully touched down at McMurdo Sound, the first time an RNZAF jet has landed on ice.

Until now the RNZAF has used propeller driven Hercules aircraft.

Using the Boeing 757 could significantly increase New Zealand's cargo and passenger capacity to Scott Base.

The air force said the upgraded Boeing 757-200 left Christchurch on Wednesday 16 December at 11.30am, arriving at McMurdo Station just before 4.00pm New Zealand time.

After refuelling on the ice runway at Pegasus Airfield, McMurdo Station, the aircraft returned to Christchurch arriving around midnight.

Mission Commander, Squadron Leader Richard Beaton said the work done in the lead-up to the flight meant it had all gone smoothly.

"There was a lot of planning involved around the various operational, technical, and logistical issues before the flight could get underway."
Air Commodore Steve Moore said the modernisation of the navigation system, as part of the Boeings' recent upgrade, removed many of the limitations of the aircraft to operate into the high latitudes of McMurdo.

"With the upgraded Boeings we were able to look more closely at a trial flight to Antarctica," he said in the statement.

"The aim of the flight was to look at the suitability of the B757 to carry passengers to McMurdo, and the availability and suitability of passenger handling facilities, ground support equipment, and engineering support equipment required in the event the aircraft requires any maintenance," said Air Commodore Moore.

Currently, the New Zealand Defence Force operates around 12 C-130 Hercules flights to McMurdo Station each year during the Antarctic summer months between October and April.

"Depending on the outcomes of the trial flight, it could be that the B757 would be a more efficient and effective way of  transporting  passengers than the C-130 Hercules or United States Air Force C-17, enabling these aircraft to be more effectively utilised to carry cargo.

"The next stage will be the post-trial flight analysis, so any further flights will still be quite some time away," said Air Commodore Moore.