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Argentina creates air bridge to its southernmost base in Antarctica

14 February 2019
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Argentine Air Force Twin Otter serial number T-85, pictured behind a Sno-Cat at Argentina’s Belgrano II Base in Antarctica, where it arrived on 10 February 2019: the first time the base has been reached by air since November 1965. Source: Argentine Air Force

After 53 years the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina - FAA) has restored an air bridge to the country's southernmost base in Antarctica.

'Operación Polar', performed using two de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter utility aircraft, departed from Marambio base, on an island close to the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, on 9 February. After a stop at the UK's Rothera Research Station, one of the aircraft, serial number T-85, flew to the UK's Sky-Blu Field Station and then on to Argentina's Belgrano II Base, arriving on 10 February. The last leg of the trip involved a flight of more than 1,000 km over completely uninhabited terrain.

The mission was designed to test the capacity of the FAA to conduct a medical evacuation or urgent supply mission to the base if needed, as Belgrano II can only be reached by icebreakers during the summer. The last Argentine flight to the base was made in November 1965 during a flight to the South Pole made by the FAA using a Douglas C-47 and de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beavers.

The Twin Otter that made the final flight, which belongs to the IX Brigada Aérea (IX Air Brigade) but is part of the Águilas Squadron, based in Marambio, carried First Lieutenants Pablo Biolatto and Manuel Coria, Suboficial Principal (Chief Sub-Officer) Sebastián Molina and Suboficial Auxiliar (Auxiliary Sub-Officer) Damián Peralta.

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