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Replacement Twin Otter arrives in Antarctica

A Twin Otter aircraft is due to arrive today at Australia's Casey station in Antarctica to replace a damaged CASA 212-400 aircraft operated by Sydney-based Skytraders for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

The Twin Otter is ski-equipped and is leased until mid-February from Canadian company Ken Borek Air. The aircraft was ferried via South America and first arrived on the Antarctic continent on 8 November, AAD Aviation Manager Steve Daw says.

It has been configured with eight seats to meet the AAD's operational requirements for its summer flights. The AAD has its second C-212 "to service projects requiring more seating", Daw says.

The Twin Otter will primarily be based out of Davis station to support the AAD's projects, but will also assist in recovery efforts for the damaged C-212.

On 15 November, C-212 VH-VHB hit hard, rigid ice known as sastrugi while landing at Bunger Hills, 430km west of Casey station, during a planned stop, says ADD acting director Rob Wooding.

The aircraft's left landing gear was displaced and the fuselage buckled, grounding the aircraft. The two pilots and two engineers on board were not injured. At the time of the incident the aircraft was equipped with the snow skis specially developed for it.

"To date the incident has had a negligible effect on Australia's Antarctic season, with the majority of projects still on track," Daw says.

Wooding says that the net cost of the Twin Otter "will be in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars". "We expect this will be covered by insurance and some minor budget adjustments," he adds.

The operational C-212 dropped tools for the crew on the ground to clear remaining sastrugi from the landing area so it could land and collect pictures and data of the damaged aircraft for assessment in Australia, the AAD says.

AAD engineers are developing a repair scheme in consultation with Skytraders, the Sydney-based operator of the AAD's fleet. Parts and equipment will be transported from Australia to Antarctica via ship and the AAD's Airbus A319, the AAD says. Skytraders did not return calls seeking comment.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says it will not investigate the incident.

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