Friday, January 20, 2006
posted 1/20/2006 01:07:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Tanker News:

Sounds like the fuel tanker has started down the shipping channel and is something like 20 miles out of McMurdo. From what I hear, the capitan of the tanker has been flown over the rest of the channel between the ship and McMurdo and only saw a couple places that concerned him. The ice breaker has been running with it's broken screw running about 20% power to allow them to at least move around a bit. Hopefully, that won't further damage the ship and maybe it'll even let the tanker come in sometime in the next couple days. There's a team of divers coming in from Australia, and I believe that the Polar Star is still being prepped to head down here just in case. We'll see how it goes!

Work News:

Pretty chill day out at Willy. The temps are dropping (low 20s Fahrenheit here in McMurdo) and there was a fair amount of wind today which always makes cold feel colder. We fueled a few planes, but nothing worth writing about. Spent a couple hours after my work working with the night skiway cargo people (Team Escargo,) finally got to run one of the big Caterpillar 950s! Got to ride around for a bit in "Redfish" watching and learning what controls do what, which was pretty neat, and got to sit shotgun when we unloaded a skier from pole - a bit special treat! Later, I got to hop in the drivers seat of "Montana" and move some empty pallets around for a few minutes. Sweet machine! Didn't have any problems with controlling it, would feel totally comfortable moving real cargo with one if I had a marshal (spotter,) with a few hours of practice some solo tasks wouldn't be out of the question. If work for me is slow tomorrow, and if the cargo guys aren't too busy I'll most likely try and get some more operating time in, maybe with Molly and Jay Hay's crew (Team America.)


...a question (which may be technical and overly aviation-geeky, but that's me to a T)... do you just have JET-A1 down there or is it some special mix to keep it from being too cold? Do you guys have any 100LL avgas on hand? I saw you mention mogas at one point, but I would guess that would be for the ground vehicles?

I must admit... there are days when fueling airplanes sounds like a ton of fun... even in Antartica. You should see if you can trade fast service to pilots for rides on ferry flights or flight lessons or some such... even the Otters are quite nice planes by general aviation standards... fast and big. -Ben

No Jet-A1 or avgas specifically down here, but we've got some roughly equivalent fuels. There are four different fuels that we deal with:

AN-8: What we use for aviation. Pretty much the same thing as JP-8, but it's a special mixture that has a lower gelling point so that it doesn't turn into a waxy solid when it gets super cold like the south pole can. I believe that we're the only people in the world who use AN8. Don't have the specs on me at the moment, but if I can remember to, I'll grab them and edit this entry to include the gellpoint and all that kind of stuff. I believe that AN-8 also has a little more icing inhibitor (a slightly nasty chemical that basically sticks to water and sinks it to the bottom of the container,) but could be mistaken.

JP-5: Generally speaking, JP5 is another jet-aviation fuel. Here we use it exclusively for heating buildings and running diesel fueled ground equipment. Much more detail can be found here. JP5 and AN8 are very similar fuels, so in a pinch we could fuel airplanes and helicopters with JP5 as long as they won't be at pole in cold (for pole) weather.

Mogas: Just another way of saying "regular unleaded midgrade gasoline." Mogas is rather dangerous stuff, it never ceases to amaze me how casually it's taken, even back in the states. Pretty much the only reason we have mogas here is for running our fleet of light (relatively speaking) trucks and vans. Why we don't have a diesel fueled fleet and forget about mogas (at least in bulk quantity) is beyond me.

Premix: Mogas with some 2-cycle oil added (50:1 ratio,) used to run snowmobiles. The fuels department mixes up pretty much all the premix here, because fuel is our thing!

As far as getting rides on planes goes, that's strictly a no-no. Long story there, but basically the people in charge hold a very tight grip on who gets to get in aircraft as it's looked at as a special privilege. Stupid policy if you ask me, but it is what it is. We do provide fast service all the time though, nine times out of ten (probably more,) we're standing with a nozzle and bonding cable at the wingtip before they've even shut down the props. Pretty much the only time we're not immediately ready for fueling is when we're already dealing with two other planes or when it's an unscheduled flight that showed up when nobody was around. I'd love to get a ride in one of the planes we fuel (especially a Twin Otter,) haven't had a chance to be in any of them with the exception of the C17 I flew down in.

Fueling airplanes at Willy is definitely cool, hope I don't make it sound like it's not. Admittedly, sometimes things at the pits can be really frustrating, but it's usually caused by bad communication, undertrained personnel, or scheduling issues. There's a lot of neat stuff that goes on out at Willy, the weather is generally not too bad, and the scenery is amazing.

Occasionally I have these little moments where I'm simply amazed by this place and what I'm doing in it. Had one today when I was feeling really tired and just leaned up against the side a herc. Was waiting there with a nozzle for the ANG fueling guy to come over and get things rolling. Hard to explain, had a realization that I'm just here doing my job (for the 11th straight day in a row -) leaning against one of something like 10 very unique aircraft that's getting ready to take some much needed fuel to the most southern point in the world, where a friend of mine will be standing by the same fuel port to unload some fuel and help to keep the station there running. Neat stuff!

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