SCOTIA, N.Y. (WTEN) — For the first time in over 30 years, because of the pandemic, the 109th Airlift Wing will not be deploying to Antarctica to support scientific research. Instead, the airmen have a new mission.
“We’re going to be in Christchurch, New Zealand,” said Captain Peter Gioia, “ready to support medical emergency evacuations for the scientists that are down in Antarctica right now.”
Typically, they’d be right there at McMurdo Station with the National Science Foundation, providing airlift and supplies as part of Operation Deep Freeze. Instead, they’ll be 2,415 miles away in Christchurch, 5 hours of flying time, on standby for contingency missions when they’re needed.
Antarctica is the only continent on the globe that is untouched by the Coronavirus, and the National Science Foundation and U.S. Military want it to stay that way. Captain Gioia says the work happening at McMurdo Station is crucial to learning more about our planet.
“They’re figuring out what the story is for us here,” said Captain Gioia, “they’re also interacting with the penguins and all the creatures of the sea.”
Three aircraft departed from the base in Scotia Monday morning.
“We operate the ski-equipped LC-130s. We are the world’s elite polar cargo vessel, if you will. We are just excited about supporting this season and ready to operate,” said Captain Gioia.