The first of the British Antarctic Survey’s four de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters has undergone a glass cockpit upgrade, with a rollout to the remaining fleet pending on further funding allocation from the UK government.

The upgrade to a Garmin G950 glass cockpit was completed by Rocky Mountain Aircraft under the supplemental type certificate of Aero Corp in October, which will now be incorporated into operations to verify the system.

“The STC is now there for the rest of the fleet, but we just need to get the money from the government to do the rest,” Rodney Arnold, head of the air division at BAS, tells Flight International.

“There is a financial reason for doing it because the instruments are so much cheaper, and there is a safety issue because it increases situational awareness and gives a single crew pilot in a remote, difficult environment a massive advantage.”

Twin Otter

British Antarctic Survey

Arnold said that the while BAS is “very confident in the system”, verifying the new cockpit on one of the turboprops and fixing problems at this stage is preferable to having to do this on all four.

“You wouldn’t want to change the whole fleet then find out they didn’t work in the South Pole at minus 50 [degrees],” Arnold added.

He adds that the harsh environment in which the aircraft operate could challenge the Garmin system. “We’re 99% certain, but there might be tweaks. The nav system that Garmin has provided will work, but it depends on how it integrates with our procedures.”

BAS’ Viking DHC-7 Dash 7 turboprop, meanwhile, has received a new instrument port to allow for it to carry hyperspectral and LiDAR sensors that have until now only been carried by the Twin Otters and a Dornier 228 that BAS is in the process of selling.

The 10h endurance of the Dash 7 in comparison to the 5-7h of the Twin Otter would “massively expand the operational envelope” for carrying these sensors, Arnold said.

“It’s more expensive to fly because it has four engines and two crew, but in terms of the Arctic Ocean, you could fly over the North Pole and still be able to do surveys out there.”

Source: Flight International