109th Airlift Wing Begins Antarctic Airlift Season Friday Morning

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An LC-130 of the109th Airlift Wing.

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SCOTIA, NY (10/13/2010)(readMedia)-- The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing kicks off its annual support for the National Science Foundation in Antarctica as the first ski-equipped LC-130 heads south at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 15.

Members of the Media are invited to interview crew members and wing leaders and observe the aircraft depart.

WHO: Six members of the 109th Airlift Wing.

WHAT: The departure of the first LC-130 from Stratton Air National Guard Base for the American base at McMurdo Sound. The ski-equipped LC-130s operated by the 109th Airlift Wing are the only aircraft in the United States military capable of landing on snow and ice.

WHEN: 7:30 a.m., Friday Oct 15

WHERE: Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia NY

Coverage Opportunities:

There will be opportunities to interview members of the crew heading for Antarctica as well as leaders of the 109th Airlift Wing. Visual imagery opportunities include crew members heading for the aircraft and the LC-130 taking off on the five-day trip to Antarctica.

Members of the media wishing to cover this event must contact Master Sgt. Willie Gizara, 518-344-2423 or (cell) 518-248-3799in order to obtain access to this secure military facility no later than 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 15.

Background :

The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing plays a critical role in supporting National Science Foundation research across Antarctica. During the 16-week Antarctic summer season seven hundred Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing and six LC-130 ski-equipped cargo planes will have supported the U.S. military's annual Operation Deep Freeze mission.

These aircraft will support the National Science Foundation's research in the Antarctic running supplies to field camps across the continent and the South Pole station.

Based at the United States Antarctic Program base at McMurdo Station, the 109th is slated to fly about 400 missions across the continent, with more than half of those moving passengers, cargo and fuel to the South Pole. On average the wing moves about 12 million pounds of cargo each season.

All supplies that reach the United State's Amundsen –Scott base at the South Pole are ferried there by the 109th. Over the last eleven years the New York Air National Guard crews have conducted 1,000 missions to the South Pole and back, moving 25 million pounds of cargo as the station has been rebuilt.

During the season about 120 wing members are "on the ice" at any one time, flying and maintaining the aircraft. The wing's members work 12 hour days for six days each week and then work a half day on Sunday.

Wing members rotate through McMurdo. The minimum tour is three weeks at the station. The time involved in getting there means wing members are away from home for four weeks while supporting the missions.

All wing members who go to the Antarctic receive specialized survival training.

The maintenance crews normally attain a 95 percent reliability status for the aircraft, allowing the flight crews to carry as much cargo as possible to remote Antarctic outposts. The wing accumulates roughly 4,000 hours of flying time in the 16 week season; almost as much as most units fly in a year.

Operation Deep Freeze, overseen by the 13th Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, provides logistical and operational support to the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard lend operational and logistical support to the National Science Foundation's research and exploration in Antarctica. This support is provided by the Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, led by 13th Air Force. JTF SFA coordinates strategic intertheater airlift, tactical deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements.

Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, is the staging point for deployment to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, a key research and operations facility for the U.S. Antarctic Program.

Active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard work together as part of the joint task force. This team continues the tradition of U.S. military support to the U.S. Antarctic Program and demonstrates the United States' commitment to a stable Pacific region.