First time ever pilots land in icy darkness

ANTARCTICA (KHNL) -Flying into the coldest and windiest most inhospitable continent on the globe can be challenging stuff, but doing it in total darkness takes it to another level.

The first ever known after- dark landing in Antarctica took place Thursday, September 11, 2008.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from McChord Air Force Base in Washington performed the monumental landing in a jet built for the task. The crew also got help using night vision goggles and reflective cones on the ground.

The mission was flown as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which is commanded by the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica. Headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii the Command's mission is to provide air and sea lift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctoc Program.

"There could be a contingency operation where someone is sick or hurt down here during the winter-over months, when they have complete darkness...," said evaluator pilot, Major Corey Simmons.

From around late March until the middle of August there is no sunlight in Antarctica. But now with the use of new technology aircrews should be able to land on the ice any time of the year.

According to Simmons there could be many reasons why the National Science Foundation may need strategic airlift.

"We have the capability now to get them out," said Major Simmons.

The success of the night time landing took over 18 months of planning, but the pilots on this mission said it was well worth the time and effort.