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Statement on Missing Aircraft from Antarctica New Zealand


28 January 2013 MEDIA STATEMENT

For Immediate Release

The wreckage of a Twin Otter aircraft that was reported missing last week in Antarctica has been found in a remote and mountainous area of the continent.

An initial assessment by Kenn Borek Air Ltd. of Calgary, Canada, the owner of the plane, deemed the crash “not survivable”.

The plane was flying in support of the Italian Antarctic Program under the logistical responsibility of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), and was en route from NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the Italian research station at Terra Nova Bay when contact was lost.

The three-person crew were the only people aboard the plane at the time.

On the afternoon of Saturday 26th January a ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft operated by the New York Air National Guard for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) overflew the last known position from the aircraft’s emergency location transmitter and spotted the aircraft’s tail at an estimated elevation of 3,900m (13,000ft) on Mt. Elizabeth, a 4480m high summit in the Queen Alexandra Range of the Transantarctic Mountains. A Twin Otter carrying U.S. and New Zealand search-and-rescue personnel conducted an aerial survey of the site a few hours later and determined that a landing by fixed-wing aircraft was not possible. Two helicopters--one flown by Southern Lakes Helicopters for Antarctica New Zealand and the other for the USAP by PHI, Inc. -- arrived at the small camp established roughly 50 kilometers from the crash location to support the operation.

Further reconnaissance was undertaken on the 27th January where field teams were able to be landed close to the crash site. Later that afternoon/early evening teams were able to recover some equipment from the exposed tail of the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, including the cockpit voice recorder, which should provide aviation authorities with more information about the cause of the crash. However, the team was unable to safely access and so recover the remains of the crew.

Officials with the U.S. Antarctic Program and Antarctica New Zealand have jointly decided to recall search-and-rescue teams from the site of an Antarctic aircraft crash after examination of the plane indicated that it would be unsafe at this point to further disturb the wreckage that is largely embedded in snow and ice on a steep mountain slope.

With the advent of the Antarctic winter, and the generally poor weather conditions at the crash site, any renewed effort to recover the remains will need to wait until the next Antarctic research season. The joint US/New Zealand rescue team will return to the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station and Antarctica New Zealand's Scott Base later today.

Officials of the Italian Antarctic Program and Kenn Borek Air Ltd., the Calgary, Canada-based operator of the aircraft, have been advised of the decision to recall the team.

Our thoughts remain with all who have a connection to this dedicated crew, in particular their families and friends both in Antarctica and overseas.

Both the U.S. and New Zealand Antarctic Programmes extend their thanks to the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre for their immediate response and coordination of efforts.

ENDS

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