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Aerial experience at Antarctic air day

Aerial experience at Antarctic air day

Step aboard some of the world’s largest aircraft at the US Antarctic Program Air Day this Sunday.

Part of NZ IceFest, the air day at Christchurch International Airport is a chance to learn more about the major aircraft used to transport staff to Antarctica during the summer season.

Crew from the United States Air Force (USAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) will take interested visitors through the planes including the USAF C-17 Globemaster III and the RNZAF C-130 Hercules.

NZ IceFest Director Chloë Dear says the day is also an opportunity to learn more about the New Zealand, American, Italian and Korean Antarctic programmes that operate out of Christchurch.

“Air day is a real highlight in the NZ IceFest programme. It’s a great family fun day out and a chance to learn more about Antarctic aviation and the special relationship the icy continent has withChristchurch. But it’s not just about what’s happening on the tarmac, you can also try on Antarctic attire, learn what happens behind the scenes at the Antarctic logistics base or catch an ice presentation – all for free!”

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Beggs says, "Air day is an opportunity to learn about the Antarctic operations which support Christchurch to be one of only five gateway cities to Antarcticain the world."

"New Zealand has a long history on the ice and this event is a great way for the public to experience part of what Antarctica New Zealand does. It's an opportunity to see how our national and international partnerships support world-leading science in Antarctica."

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Christchurch International Airport hosts around 120 departures to the ice each season.

General Manager of Strategy and Sustainability Rhys Boswell says the airport works hard to support the operations in Antarctica.

“We provide around a million dollars in support every year – the primary focus is getting planes and the vital supplies they’re carrying to the ice. Being Antarctica’s gateway is a role we’re incredibly proud of.”

Mr Boswell says the aircraft that will be on display are the workhorses of the Antarctic programme.

“They’re impressive planes and the opportunity for people to go inside and look through them doesn’t come along every day.”

The US Antarctic Programme (USAP) Operation Deep Freeze operates out of Christchurch International Airport.

"Operation Deep Freeze is the logistical support provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP),” says Operations Officer Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA) Lieutenant Colonel Todd Grimsley.

“Operation Deep Freeze is unlike any other US military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The US military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has therefore provided support to the USAP since 1955.”

Major General Tim Gall, Commander Joint Force New Zealand says the New Zealand Defence Force has been contributing to the Antarctic programme for 55 years.

“This commitment involves air transport of people and supplies, providing specialist personnel on the ice to maintain the operation and sharing the logistics required between NZ and the US.

“The Antarctic programme allows the New Zealand Defence Force to continue positive relationships with other government agencies and with overseas partners in the Ross Sea region.”

US Antarctic Program Air Day is being held at Christchurch International Airport on Sunday 5 October from 10am-4pm. Entry is free but visitors wishing to attend are advised to pick up a free entry token from the NZ IceFest booth inside the International Antarctic Centre on the day. The token will give you a reserved time slot to visit the planes.

Other NZ IceFest highlights this weekend include:

Ice Divers – What Lies Beneath in the Deep, Dark Depths
Listen to expert ice divers who brave the -2 degree water to research the ecologically diverse ocean realm. Saturday 4 October, 2.30pm–3.30pm.NZ IceFest Hub, Free.

The Shackleton Whisky Story – Every Whisky is an Adventure
In 1908 Ernest Shackelton’s British Antarctic Expedition ventured to the icy continent loaded with 25 cases of Mackinlay’s whisky. A century later three crates of whisky were discovered under his hut in Antarctica. Find out the story behind this remarkable discovery and how Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt was reborn. Saturday 4 October, 5–6pm, NZ IceFest Hub, Free.

Kevin and Jamie – First Crossings
In 2006 Kevin and Jamie undertook a gruelling journey, on foot, 2200 kilometres from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and back. Their story is funny, dramatic and fascinating. Saturday 4 October, 7.30pm–9pm, NZ IceFest Hub, $15

View the full programme for NZ IceFest at

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Please be aware that weather and operational conditions in Antarctica may mean that planes are not available on the day. Check on the day for more details.

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