Dark Landing in Antarctica

Dark Landing in Antarctic: As if landing on a sheet of ice weren’t difficult enough in daylight, an Air Force C-17 aircrew on Sept. 11 utilized night vision goggles to make the first known landing in the dark in the Antarctic, according to an Air Force release. The Operation Deep Freeze C-17 and mixed active and Reserve aircrew from McChord AFB, Wash., used NVGs to spot reflective cones on the Pegasus ice runway, near McMurdo Station, the home base for National Science Foundation and US Antarctic Program researchers. The site for many months of the year has no sunlight, and, according to Lt. Col. Jim McGann, commander of the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, there’s no way to light the entire runway. McGann, a veteran of more than 60 missions to the Antarctic, said that the “inherent NVG capability in the C-17” plus NVG technological advances and the use of the “high-intensity retro-reflective cones” made the night-landing concept viable. He added, “When the aircraft turns to final [approach], the wingtip light reflects off the cones to the NVGs, and we can see the entire runway.” The 13th Air Force-led Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica began the new Deep Freeze season earlier this month. (USAF release by MSgt. Chris Vadnais)