Video: C-17 Makes Frigid Landing On Antarctic Ice

18 10 2010

Ever fishtailed in your car while driving down an icy road? Now imagine if you had to land a huge cargo plane on a runway made of ice.

The U.S. military performs a number of logistics, resupply and other support missions for the U.S.’s scientific research program in Antarctica. One of its commanders is Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Edward Vaughn, who runs the military logistics hub at McMurdo Station, an 85-building outpost on the southern tip of Ross Island off the coast of Victoria Land, where temperatures can reach -0.39 degrees Fahrenheit. (Check out their webcam images.) He’s been writing a fascinating series of posts for the Defense Department’s Armed With Science blog, and in this dispatch, he presents some video his airfield manager shot of a 190,000-pound Air Force C-17 coming in for a landing on the ice.

What’s it like to sit in the plane’s belly as it touches down? Anyone who’s been strapped into the sides of a C-17 knows the planes are uncomfortable, loud and cold. In Antarctica, that reaches a new level: “The first noseful of dry, cold, hard air clawed its way down my windpipe,” Vaughn writes. “Were it not for the still-running jet engines, you could hear the faint cracking of lips and nostrils.” 

Vaughn doesn’t say if the icy landing is at all, well, white-knuckled. To an outsider, it looks like the C-17 glides on the ice like a Zamboni. Defense Secretary Robert Gates hasn’t had much luck convincing Congress to kill the C-17 program. How much longer before a legislator pitches the plane to the Pentagon as a polar ice-skater?

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Source: Wired Danger Room




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