STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, New York --
-- Three LC-130 “Skibirds”, and 75 Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing are in supporting National Science Foundation science research there.
The 109th flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world which are capable of landing on snow and ice and conduct resupply missions for American scientific research in Antarctica when it is winter in New York and in Greenland during the summer months.
The aircraft and Airmen departed at the beginning of April. This is the first of five rotations of 75 to 100 Airmen and three aircraft scheduled throughout the summer support season. The season is slated to end in August.
The Airmen fly from Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, near Schenectady, New York, to Kangerlussuaq International Airport in Greenland, which serves as their operating base.
This year, in addition to the regular National Science Foundation re-supply missions, the main focus is skiway training for Airmen from the 109th.
A skiway is a groomed snow landing area which allows the LC-130s to land more safely.
The 109th is the Air Force’s Formal Training Unit for LC-130 Ski qualifications and Greenland is the primary training area, explained Maj. Jake. Papp, the chief of Greenland operations.
The 109th will also be completing two Barren Land Arctic Survival Training (BLAST) classes which consists of 40 additional Airmen, 20 in each class.
Students are taught to use resources stored onboard the planes which includes arctic tents, camp stoves to boil snow and make water, cold weather rations and a Gamow bag, which is a portable hyperbaric chamber to treat altitude sickness. The students also learn how to make cold weather shelters made from blocks of snow that are cut and stacked together to create a shelter.
The BLAST school is run by the 109th Airlift Wing’s aircrew flight equipment section and survival, escape, resistance and evasion experts, known as SERE instructors, from the 66th Training Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
The 109th aircrew flight equipment personnel facilitate all the logistics for the course and set up the training base. The SERE personnel teach the techniques used for surviving in the arctic environment, including surviving a forced landing in a barren landscape.
The BLAST training will take place at the same area that the 109th primarily uses for skiway training.
“We use Raven Camp, which is a 6,000 foot groomed skiway that is only a 25 minute flight from Kangerlussuaq to train new aircrew members as well as core crew members current with ski operations,” Papp said.
In 2022, the wing’s Airmen transported 1.4 million pounds of cargo, 67,700 gallons of fuel and delivered 892 passengers to science stations in Greenland. They flew a total of 585 hours.
The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military, able to land on snow and ice.