STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SCOTIA, N.Y. –The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing wrapped up its annual support to the National Science Foundation in Greenland when Airmen and LC-130 “Skibirds” returned to Stratton Air National Guard Base on Aug. 23.
The unit supplied 2.4 million pounds of cargo, eighty-six-thousand gallons of fuel and delivered 1300 passengers to research locations across the Greenland Ice Cap. The wing’s aircrews flew a total of 721 hours support the science stations from April to August.
Four hundred Airmen rotated through the mission during the five-month time frame. Three LC-130 Hercules aircraft were deployed during each of the seven deployment periods.
The wing also conducted two Barren Land Arctic Survival Training classes, known as BLAST for short, with survival, escape, resistance, and evasion expert instructors from the 66th Training Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
BLAST training teaches Airmen how to survive a forced landing in a barren Arctic landscape, and all members of the 109th who deploy to Antarctica and the Arctic are required to take the course.
Thirty-four Airmen attached to the 109th Airlift Wing and four Airmen attached to the 105th Airlift Wing completed the training at the barren ice camp location known as Raven Camp.
This year, the aircrews were flying LC-130s with new, improved engines, which reduced fuel use, according to Master Sgt. Andrew Ham, an LC-130 flight engineer. This “3.5 engine upgrade is intended to improve long-duration flight fuel efficiency,” Ham explained.
According to Master Sgt. Jared Nardi, a propulsion technician for the LC-130, said the engine upgrades mean that along with flying farther on less fuel, the aircraft can take-off faster in the Arctic and Antarctic.
The new engines also require maintenance less often, Nardi added. This new capability was needed because the wing was tasked with flying construction materials to Summit Station, a year-round science observation outpost high up on the Greenland ice cap.
According to the National Science Foundation, Summit Station is especially important for monitoring the atmosphere and conducting astronomy and astrophysical science. The foundation has decided to rebuild the 30-year-old station so it can be elevated above snow drifts on easily lift and level platforms.
According to the National Science Foundation, the new Summit Station will also be energy efficient and incorporate renewable energy and autonomous systems where possible.
The 109th’s cargo carrying capability is important to this mission, Ham said.
“We had a significant number of special assignment airlift missions scheduled to begin the cargo movements for the upcoming recapitalization of Summit Station. A lot of it was steel beams for future construction build-up,” he explained.
Ham said that summer missions in Greenland are critical for providing aircrews with experience in Polar Regions.
Ham also said they were able to close out ten training folders for aircrew members learning to operate in the Arctic environment.
“Uncharacteristically warm temperatures resulted in increased Assisted Takeoff (ATO) usage, using jet assisted take-off rockets, at all three camps but, overall, it was another successful season,” Ham said.
The ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules is the largest aircraft in the world able to land on snow and ice. Only the 109th Airlift Wing flies these planes.
The 109th also provides critical airlift for National Science Foundation Missions in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze, the Department of Defense support for Antarctic research.
The 109th’s Airmen will begin immediately preparing to deploy for Operation Deep Freeze in October.