VAE operates intercontinental flights to a naturally formed ice runway in the Ellsworth Mountains, West Antarctica. Flights from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Antarctica are by heavy transport aircraft with a payload of up to 17 tonne. Within Antarctica, all flights are by twin engine, ski equipped aircraft. VAE always has a minimum of two ski aircraft in Antarctica to provide complete self-sufficiency for normal operations and for emergency response.
ILYUSHIN IL-76TD (ILYUSHIN)
The Ilyushin is our Intercontinental flight work-horse, ideal for transporting both passengers and cargo between Punta Arenas Chile and Antarctica. The robust, four engine Russian jet is well-suited to off-strip landings and lands on wheels on Union Glacier ice runway. The aircraft is fully certified and insured for passengers. It is fitted with normal airline seats for passenger comfort and carries standard emergency equipment as well as Antarctic survival equipment. The flight from Chile to Antarctica takes approximately 4 ¼ hours, at a flight level of 31,000-35,000 ft (9450-10670m). Return fuel is carried on all flights.
The Ilyushin 76 was originally conceived for delivering heavy machinery to remote, poorly-serviced areas of the USSR. As such it needed to meet the requirements for a heavy-lift freighter with good speed and range, able to operate from short and unprepared airstrips, and capable of coping with the worst weather conditions likely to be experienced in Siberia and the Soviet Union's Arctic regions.
The Iyushin 76 has seen extensive service as a commercial freighter, especially for outsized or heavy items unable to be otherwise carried. It has been used as emergency response transport for civilian evacuations and to deliver humanitarian/disaster relief aid around the world, especially to undeveloped areas due to its ability to operate from unpaved runways. The Il-76TD has a greater range and load capacity than the original Il-76.
BASLER BT-67 (BASLER)
Our larger ski aircraft is Basler BT-67, a turboprop conversion of the Douglas DC-3. The Basler is quickly becoming the Antarctic aircraft of choice for transporting larger groups of passengers and larger cargo items into the field.
Named "The Travel Product of the Century" by FORTUNE©, the Douglas DC-3 revolutionized air travel. The high-performance STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft is versatile, tough, simple and spacious. Its usefulness has been proven in every imaginable application, from passenger and cargo to military and special purpose missions. The Basler conversion replaces original piston engines with reliable Pratt and Whitney PT6A-67R turbine engines, extends the fuselage, adds de-icing and other improvements.
DE HAVILAND DHC-6 TWIN OTTER (TWIN OTTER)
Ski-equipped Twin Otters are a staple in Antarctic aviation. They are used by VAE, the British Antarctic Survey, the United States Antarctic Program, and the Argentine and Chilean airforce, who support their own national Antarctic programs.
The DHC-6 probably needs no introduction to most people. This twin engine, turbo-prop, STOL aircraft is used throughout the world to access remote locations on wheels, floats, tundra tires and skis. Their rugged landing gear and STOL characteristics allow them to take off and land where other aircraft cannot. From coastal resorts and remote communities to the Arctic and Antarctic wilderness, the Twin Otter provides reliable and versatile passenger and cargo transport.