Kanger: You Can’t Get There From Here

April 20, 2010

Not today anyway

A C-5 Starlifter visited Kangerlussuaq airport last week, bringing cargo and people north to Greenland. Under wing: two C-130s, the workhorses of NSF's polar programs. All photos: Ed Stockard

The ash plume from Iceland’s exploding Eyjafjallajokull volcano drifted toward Greenland today, leading officials to close airports on the island’s southwestern coast, including Kangerlussuaq, the main logistics hub for the National Science Foundation’s polar research program in Greenland.  Scientists and support personnel  bound for Greenland waited in Schenectady, near the Stratton Air Base, in Scotia, New York, from which the Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing flies the ski-equipped C-130s.

Last week while many of Europe’s airports were shuttered due to the ash cloud, Greenland’s airports remained open and program personnel arriving from the US were able to reach Kangerlussuaq—some in the gigantic C-5a Galaxy airplane that visited from Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, New York. But the winds shifted on Monday, sending the cloud on a westerly path toward Greenland.

The Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, which provides the C-130 heavy airlift for the U.S. polar programs, will monitor airport closures and meteorological information, daily making go/no-go announcements for personnel waiting for flights to resume.

The C-5a Galaxy with the agile Ken Borek Twin Otter taxiing by.

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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010

And Speaking of New 

PFS 2.0: Natalia and Damen Guthrie. Photo: Liza Vaughn Guthrie

A father of five females, Earl Vaughn once joked that he’d “daughtered-out” his line. But to hear the PFS cargo manager in Scotia, New York, talk about his beloved girls, we knew he didn’t really mind. And now Earl’s daughters are giving him grandchildren, the latest of whom is another strapping grandson from daughter Liza. 

The newest addition to the extended Vaughn family: Damen Guthrie, in his big sis Natalia's arms. Also pictured: mom Liza (Earl's daughter) and dad Dan "Dino" Guthrie. Photo: Earl Vaughn

Meet Damen Christopher Guthrie, born two days before Thanksgiving, on 24 November.  A long, tall drink of handsome, the boy weighed over 9 pounds when he entered the world and hasn’t looked back since.

It's hard work being born. Dino and Damen take a snooze. Photo: Earl Vaughn

Knowing what he knows about holiday juggling acts in big, extended families, Earl prepared a huge pre-Christmas feast on December 22nd, so that all his girls and their assorted significants and children could attend. “It was great,” Earl said. “Everyone was here–my daughter Arianna even flew in from Oregon.”

Earl’s girls: Alex, Liza, Sarah and Arianna. Photo: Earl Vaughn

Significants include  109th Air National Guard pilot Tom Esposito, Alex’s husband and father of two of Earl’s growing brood of grandchildren. With Tom flying for NSF’s polar research programs, and Liza and Dino working for Earl in the Scotia cargo arena, Earl has quite the family polar dynasty going, daughtered-out or not. We expect nothing less, since Earl is, as we discovered when we profiled him a few years ago for field notes, a force of nature. 

Kids love a bit of bubble wrap: Natalia and cousin Anna Esposito. Anna is Earl's granddaughter as well, born to daughter Alexa and husband Tom Esposito, a pilot with the Air National Guard 109th. Photo: Earl Vaughn


Veterans Day

November 11, 2009

We thank our friends in the New York Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing for their service to our country.

A skibird on snow at NEEM, Greenland. Photo: Ed Stockard

The 109th 'skibird' on snow at NEEM drill camp in Greenland. Photo: Ed Stockard

On the sea-ice runway at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, where the unit supports the NSF's antarctic research. Photo courtesy ANG 109th

Directing traffic on the sea-ice runway at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Photo courtesy 109th ANG

 

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Master Sgt. Ed Holub is welcomed home from a tour in Afghanistan by his children September 15th. Photo courtesy ANG 109th


The Weather Channel Features NEEM and ANG 109th

October 9, 2009

Watch Saturday/Sunday 7 -10am EDT

Robbie Score in front of the NEEM dome. Photo: Ed. Stockard

Robbie Score in front of the NEEM dome. Photo: Ed Stockard

Those of us in the U.S. wishing to visit the U Copenhagen-led NEEM drilling camp (or to fly with the Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing) on the Greenland ice sheet should tune in to the Weather Channel this Saturday and Sunday (October 10 and 11) between 7am and 11am EDT. A crew from StormCenter (Dan Cohen, Steven Holloway, Rick Patterson and Heidi Cullen from Climate Central) visited Greenland last July and produced some stories about NEEM and the ANG that air this weekend.

Whet your appetite with video clips posted on the StormCenter Web site; they do a great job of putting you on the ice sheet, in the core rooms, in the cockpit with the Guard flight crew. They also make it clear that for everyone doing the work, it’s more than a job. NEEM field coordinator JP Steffensen (U Copenhagen) refers to his 29 years of research in Greenland as a “marriage for life” while ANG Lt. Col George Alston says the mission is “a great way to contribute to the nation.” And the woman with the biggest NEEM title of all, Chief Scientist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, she can’t suppress a grin when she admits she just “wants to work with the cores.”

The ANG provides the airlift muscle to the drilling camp, and the footage inside the cockpit looks great. “We shot some amazing footage,” agrees Dave Jones, head of StormCenter, “and we will continue to tell the stories that need to be told.” Jones has particularly kind words for the ANG, writing, “I can’t tell you how proud I am that the 109th exists! Thank you for all you do to advance our understanding of science and global climate change.”


Closing Time

August 31, 2009

Through Ed Stockard’s Viewfinder

Ed sent pictures of the seasonal close-out in Kangerlussuaq.

Silver Williams (left) catches up with Torre Stockard. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway at the remote site.

A smiling Silver Williams catches up with Torre Stockard at the Kanger airport. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway and kept the remote site operational for the ANG.

This is why we call them the workhorse of the NSF's polar programs. A C-130 disgorges a Spryte used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

A C-130 disgorges a Spryte driven by Drew Abbott. The vehicle is used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US.  "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US. "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

To celebrate the end of the season, CPS hosts a barbeque on the banks of Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (Dartmouth) andJack Dibb and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (UNH) and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

The last flight of the 2009 science season departed Greenland in the early morning of August 30.  But we’re not quite done:  Mark Begnaud and Ed Stockard remain behind, as they do each year, for the final buttoning up. They have about  two weeks to go of checking and inventorying field and communications equipment, closing buildings, winterizing vehicles, cleaning out our offices in the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support building–“sorting, organizing, fixing…always fixing the old trucks, drying, stacking, throwing away, sighing, sending, receiving, sleeping in on a Sunday (finally), cleaning, counting, stuffing, and so on,” Ed explains.

Ed will depart on September 11 when the Air National Guard returns to Greenland to position the Greenland Inland Traverse project team at Thule Air Base. Mark will remain for a few more days before returning to the US via Denmark on a commercial flight.

“I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home.

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  (Semisonic, Closing Time)


ANG Test Flights Propel Polar Airlift Potential

August 10, 2009
An LC-130 equipped with special 8-blade NP2000 propellers visits Summit Station, Greenland. Test flights such as this one suggest the 8-blade propellers will allow these cargo planes to take off on skis with much heavier cargo loads than do the standard 4-blade propellers. Photo: Mark Doll, USAF

An LC-130 equipped with special 8-blade NP2000 propellers visits Summit Station, Greenland, late in July. Test flights suggest the propellers will allow these cargo planes to take off on skis with much heavier cargo loads than do the standard 4-blade propellers. Photo: Mark Doll, USAF

We heard from Mark Doll today after he’d had a chance to catch up from “a great week in Greenland.”  That week, a flight period for the New York Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing, included test flights of an eight-blade propeller system mounted on the LC-130 cargo planes, which provide the heavy airlift to the National Science Foundation’s polar research program.  

How did it go?

“In short, the NP2000-equipped LC-130 works great,” wrote Lt Col Doll (the Air Guard’s liaison to the National Science Foundation’s polar program).

“During the week of 27-31 July, the 109th continued test flights with the 8-blade NP2000 propeller. The program consisted of two trips to Summit and one to Raven Camp. At each place, we conducted a series of take-offs at various weights both on the skiways and in the open snow. While we are still reducing the data, we can say that we set an unofficial take-off record at Summit: 143,000 lbs, -11 deg C – with an 18kt tailwind! Granted the snow was quite good, and the skiway in great shape, but no one expected a successful take-off under those conditions. The whole crew was surprised. We even took off from Summit open snow at 113,000 lbs; under normal conditions, that would have been impossible even with JATO.

Ed Stockard shot this photo of Skier 92 coming in for a landing at Raven Camp. That building at rear was part of the Distant Early Warning array established across the arctic during the cold war.

Ed Stockard shot this photo of Skier 92 at Raven Camp. Dye 2, rear, was part of the Distant Early Warning System radar sites established across the Arctic during the cold war, and it is located about 1 mile from Raven.

“The NP2000 propeller offers reduced vibration, noise and maintenance costs, while increasing thrust. The absolute amount of increased thrust is still being determined. However, in our subjective opinion, it offers much better performance for ski take-offs. Our intent is to eventually equip all LC-130s with the NP2000 to increase our cargo-carrying capability while reducing the use of JATO.”

The planes, traditionally outfitted with four-blade propellers, have skis to land on snow and ice. And while these are absolutely essential at the poles where few paved runways exist, the LC-130s pay a high price in terms of efficiency: drag makes the “Ski Birds” ungainly on takeoff (and can lead to ski ways that are several miles long!) and it also reduces air speed.

A NP2000-equipped LC-130 flies over bergy waters. Photo: Mark Doll

An NP2000-equipped LC-130 flies over bergy waters. Photo: Mark Doll

The test flights cap about 10 years of research and development for Doll and colleagues, he says.  Back in 1999, “I started asking questions about the thrust of the existing propeller so I could start to define the ski drag,” Doll recalls. ”I quickly was referred to Hamilton Standard (Hamilton Sundstrand) for some answers. That started the relationship that led to the NP2000 discussions. At the time, the propeller was being designed for the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye; the C-130 was only a dream.

“It has been a long road to get this far; and we’re still a long way from success. Even after we prove the viability and capability of the NP2000, we still have to procure the funds for installation. Last week in Greenland was a success and brought us one step closer to an answer, no matter what the answer is.”


Fly the Friendly Skies

July 30, 2009
Legendary 109th pilot Jim Grupp (Ret) at Alert Bay, Canada, March 2006. Photo: Ed Stockard

Legendary 109th pilot Jim Grupp (Ret) at Alert Bay, Canada, March 2006. Photo: Ed Stockard

We got to thinking about our colleagues in the New York Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing the other day.  We heard about the delight with which two Greenlandic high school students, participating in an education program en route to Summit Station, experienced take-off and landing in the plane’s cockpit, having been invited up by the pilot for a rare view of their ice-topped homeland.

The 109th is a special unit. Their primary mission is to provide airlift to the US National Science Foundation’s research programs at both poles:  they move civilians (scientists and those who manage or support the research program) and their gear to and from and all over the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

Through the 109th, civilians experience a fly culture unlike a typical commercial airline. For one thing, the “seats” are made of red netting hooked to the inside walls of the plane. No first class here–everyone sits in cargo class.

For one thing, all the seats are middle seats—and they’re made of red netting. No nonsense. Have a seat.

All the seats are middle seats. Have a seat. Photo: Henning Thing

The ANG doesn’t serve snacks, and forget the drink cart. But sometimes, en route to Greenland from their base in Scotia, New York, they will take you out for ice cream: the airport staff at Canadian Forces Base at Goose Bay, Newfoundland (the refueling stop), give free ice cream bars to all comers. And while there’s no in-flight movie, the view out the windows can be spectacular, especially if a reconnaissance means the crew goes in low.

There's no in-flight movie, but the view out the porthole windows can be stunning. Photo: Ed Stockard

Approaching east Greenland. Photo: Ed Stockard

You can drape yourself over the cargo pallets (as is the fellow, left center, below) or stand in the aisles. As long as the air is smooth and the loadmaster doesn’t mind.

If they lose your luggage, you’re likely to know it since cargo flies in the belly of the plane with the people.  (But the 109th doesn’t lose your luggage.) Photo: Henning Thing

If they lose your luggage, you’re likely to know it before you land since cargo flies in the belly of the plane with the people. But the 109th doesn’t lose your luggage. Photo: Henning Thing

Like flight attendants on commercial airlines, loadmasters are in charge of what happens behind the cockpit. But they won’t bring you an eye mask or fluff your pillow; they’re busy with other matters:

It was a beautiful day for the loadmaster--really, for all involved--to see this D-8 snugged into the hold, ready to fly to a deep field camp. Photo: Ed Stockard

A loadmaster's dream. This D-6 snuggles in the hold, ready to fly to a deep field camp. Photo: Ed Stockard

Sometimes the 109th drops something–but only on purpose:

. . . on purpose of course. Here, the 109th delivers via air drop. Photo: Ed Stockard

Here, a crew practices air drop procedures at Raven Camp, their Greenland training facility. Photo: Ed Stockard

And then there are the skis, required for snow and ice field landings. When fully retracted, the skis sit up close to the body of the plane. When deployed, they fit down over the wheels, almost like enormous spats.  And those spats make the “ski-birds” workhorses at the poles, where there are few paved runways available.

You land in Kangerlussuaq on wheels, but on the ice, you land on skis and glide to a stop. Photo: Henning Thing

Coming in for a landing. . .

. . . and touchdown!

. . . and touchdown! Photos: Henning Thing

The Guard doesn’t put up much of a curtain between the air operations and the passengers; there’s no Wizard of Oz here, so you never forget that what you’re doing is flying in a big metal bird. But somehow, that’s comforting.  Friendly skis.  Friendly skies.

Congratulations to Lt Col Mark Doll and the entire 109th Airlift Wing on the successful testing of an LC-130 fitted with eight-bladed propellers earlier this week at Summit Station! More on those developments in a future post.