Press release

New aircraft for polar research

[31. October 2006] 

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is acquiring a new research plane of type Basler BT-67. ‘Polar 5’ features improved aeronautical parameters and scientific instrumentation designed for long-lasting utilisation. Consequently, it is ideally suited for continuing support of AWI research projects, despite ever increasing demands. The new aircraft will replace ‘Polar 4’, a Dornier DO 228-101 that has been operating since 1984. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is financing the acquisition of the polar research plane with 8.1 million euros. ‘Polar 5’, with registration C-GAWI, will see its first deployment during the 2007/2008 Antarctic season, exactly 25 years after the Alfred Wegener Institute’s initial polar aircraft operation.

The Basler BT-67 (Basler Turbo Conversion LLC), designed specifically for requirements of polar research, will be integrated as ‘Polar 5’ into the AWI flight schedule. Compared to ‘Polar 4’, the new plane is characterised by advanced performance parameters: The operational range (approximately 2900 km) has more than doubled, and the required take-off capacity from skis at elevations exceeding 3800 meters on the Antarctic Plateau has been demonstrated. Powerful generators have enabled expansion of the existing measuring equipment aboard. Loading capacity and volume are more than twice as large as in the preceding model, significantly improving the transport capacity for logistical operations. The new aircraft is more robust and therefore requires less maintenance than previous polar aircraft. Maintenance can be carried out at the deployment location. With operational costs comparable to current polar aircraft, the plane will be able to operate for up to 800 hours per year.

Next year’s commissioning of the new aircraft will also mark a new partnership of the research plane with the Canadian company ‘Enterprise Air Inc.’ in Oshawa. As for ‘Polar 2’ and ‘Polar 4’, the home location of ‘Polar 5’ will be Bremerhaven’s regional airport. This will also be the site of regular maintenance work on ‘Polar 5’ between research deployments.

The new acquisition became necessary after the research aircraft ‘Polar 4’ was severely damaged in January 2005 during a rough landing at the British over-wintering station Rothera on the Antarctic Peninsula. As it was impossible to repair the plane, the aircraft had to be decommissioned. Since then, the scientific and logistical tasks of polar flights have been performed solely by ‘Polar 2’. A second polar aircraft is needed so that the Alfred Wegener Institute can continue to meet fully its scientific and logistical responsibilities as a centre for polar and marine research.

Bremerhaven, October 31, 2006

Please send us a copy of any published version of this document.

Suggestion for editors:
Your contact person at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Dr Andreas Herber (Tel: +49-471-4831-1489, email: aherber@awi-bremerhaven.de). Your contact person in the public relations department is Dr Jens Kube (Tel: +49-471-4831-2007, email: jkube@awi-bremerhaven.de).

 

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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 19 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.