Polar research aircraft marks tenth year in service

Since November 2007, the aircraft has travelled to Antarctica six times and to the Arctic annually, where it has contributed to 34 atmospheric science research and geophysical charting projects

The German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has marked the tenth anniversary of the introduction to service of its Polar 5 research aircraft.

Since November 2007, the aircraft has travelled to Antarctica six times and to the Arctic annually, where it has contributed to 34 atmospheric science research and geophysical charting projects. In total, Polar 5 has completed 48 campaigns in both polar regions, landed on Arctic sea ice near the North Pole, and at the South Pole, and flown more than 1.3 million kilometres on data gathering and logistics missions.

In just eleven months, the 65-year-old aircraft was essentially purpose-rebuilt for polar operations and survey flights, including take offs and landings in remote regions. Polar 5 is capable of lowering an EM-bird, ice-thickness measuring device, and towing it through the atmosphere, while a special port in the hull also allows it to deploy water quality probes in flight.

The aircraft is currently in Canada awaiting the installation of new instrumentation. It will then return to Germany later this year, where AWI engineers and scientists will fit and test new sensors. It is due to leave for northern Greenland, and the next major polar campaign, in March 2018.

By Helen Atkinson

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