Titan Aviation

Kamov 32 heavy lifting helicopter on the ice in front of SANAE IV

Working in Antarctica is a challenge on all levels, but perhaps the greatest challenges are in the field of logistics.  Without any form of infrustructure on the content, personnel and supplies have to be moved over great distances under harsh conditions.  Air support is one of the key ingredients, and the South African expedition relies heavily on helicopters to accomplish the logistical tasks involved in resupply and research during the summer months.  The Directorate for Antarctica & Islands of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, under which SANAE falls, has entered into an agreement with the SA-based company Titan Aviation to provide this support.

This past season three Titan helicopters along with 8 pilots and technical personnel accompanied us aboard the SA Agulhas and at SANAE IV.  The first helicopter is a Kamov Ka32, built in Russia and designed for heavy lifting tasks.  With two sets of contrarotating rotor blades, the aircraft has no requirement for a tail-rotor, thus reducing her overall length while maintaining a lifting capacity of 5000kg.  The aircraft is also specially equipped to fly under conditions of extreme cold, and can carry up to 15 passengers in addition to her 3 crew.

Titan 1 on the helideck of the SA Agulhastitan1headonbouvet.jpgLifting cargo to Bouvet IslandTitan 1 landing on the helipad at SANAE IV
Kamov Ka32 Helicopter, Titan 1

 The other two helicopters are the ever-capable BO105, in two configurations – one equipped for 2 crew and 3 passengers was used for inspection flights and to fly passengers with limited cargo.  The other has a full medical conversion, with place for 2 flight crew, doctor and a patient in a stretcher configutation that allows medical intervention in flight, with oxygen supply and console for monitors, infusion pumps, etc.  I was fortunately familiar with this set-up, as we had an identical aircraft in Cape Town some years ago as an air ambulance, which was also used for rescue work.  Although at first it may seem superfluous to have an air ambulance helicopter in Antarctica, it must be remembered that South Africa carries the regional search and rescue responsibility in Dronning Maud Land, and our large medical facility is the preferred location for management of severe illness or injury.  This was proven recently when we had the opporunity to use this aircraft during the evacuation of an ill crewmember from the German construction vessel, Naja Arctica (click on the link for details).

BO 105 with medical configuration at the German station, NeumayerBO105 CockpitMedical configuration of the BO 105, Titan 3

Titan’s team,  led by Antarctic veteran Captain Dick Hilland, took the difficulties of working in the white desert under their stride, sometimes working through the ‘night’ to ensure that we – and our essential supplies – were delivered safely and professionally despite inclement weather.  We look forward to seeing them again at the end of the year; in the meantime, the unique challenges of Marion and Gough Islands await them.  For more information about Titan, visit www.titanhelicopters.com

The hanger aboard the SA Agulhas, with two BO105 helicopters. The Kamov 32 helicopter preparing to lift supplies for the researchers on Bouvet Islandtitan1pilots.jpg

titan1landing.jpgView back past the tail of the Kamov, with Vesleskarvet visible below. Captain Dick HillandCaptain Dick Hilland pilots the BO105 air ambulance to Neumayer Station

Inside the cockpit of the Kamov 32Kamov 32 lifting heavy cargo from the foredeck of the SA AgulhasPilot Rod Penold keeps a weather eye on the instrumentation

Aerial photograph of SANAE IV taken from the BO105