Loading the plane

Simon with baggage and mail

Since I had my camera out to document the parachute jumpers, I took a few more pictures, including this one of Simon waiting to deal with the mail and baggage.

cargo ops

After dealing with the baggage and mail, John goes to get the cat...

loading empty helium bottles

...to send back another pallet of empty helium bottles. More recently the helium has arrived in bulk in liquid form, as until 2012 the dark sector instruments used liquid helium. Gaseous helium now arrives on large bottle racks the size of cargo containers.

removing used JATO bottles

Another C-130 is getting special attention. The flight crew is removing the JATO (jet assisted take-off) bottles from the plane. These were really small rocket bottles which were used for an extra "kick" when they had to take off from a soft open field runway at high altitude (such as Siple or Dome C.) Typically these flights would then stop at Pole for refueling before the trip back to McM. In 1971 one of the bottles broke loose during a takeoff from D-59 (south of the French Dumont d'Urville station). There were no injuries, but the JATO bottle damaged one of the engines and the aircraft was abandoned there for many years. "321" was later recovered and flown out during the 1987-88 summer, not entirely successful since another LC-130 crashed at the site, with 2 deaths and other injuries. Jim Mathews, one of our summer mechanics at Pole during 76-77, was the contractor site manager at D-59 during the recovery effort, and the "321 module" he and George Cameron developed, ended up at Pole as an extra summer camp head module in 1988-89. As of 2005 it was still around, parked near the garage.

The use of JATO was discontinued by VXE-6 a few years after 1977, because of the 321 accident among others, but the 109 ANG has used it occasionally in more recent years for takeoffs from high altitude field camps. Of course, JATO isn't required for normal takeoffs from Pole, but it WAS used to insure a successful offdeck after the 16 October 1999 opening flight, the earliest in history, before the skiway had a chance to harden up. Oh yeah, that was the Jerri Nielsen medevac flight. At the present time JATO is no longer being manufactured, so the existing supplies are being carefully rationed.