A British Antarctic Survey (BAS) De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft, registered in the Falkland Islands, was damaged when it landed at Rothera Research Station on Friday 7 November 2003. No-one was injured.
The aircraft, whose call sign was VPFBB, was returning from a routine re-supply flight to Fossil Bluff, a remote field and re-fuelling station situated on Alexander Island in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Strong, gusting winds, which sometimes appear without warning, lifted the tail of the plane as it completed its landing, causing it to flip The pilot, a captain with 10 years Antarctic flying experience, and one other person escaped unhurt, but the plane was damaged sufficiently to be out of service for the remainder of the Antarctic field season. The accident is being reviewed by the Falkland Islands Director of Civil Aviation, and a full assessment of damage and repairs will be carried out.
The de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft is a high wing, twin engine, turbo prop wheel/ski equipped aircraft, whose "Short Take Off and Landing" (STOL) performance, makes the plane the backbone of the BAS Antarctic field operations.
They carry scientists into the field, resupply them or move them during the season, then finally recover the party to Rothera or Halley stations at the completion of their projects.
Modifications to the aircraft allow the fit of airborne surveying equipment, including dual magnetometer, ice depth radio echo sounder, gravimeter, ocean colour sensors, and large and small format cameras for mapping, and bird and seal census. The aircraft also provide BAS with an Antarctic search and rescue capability.
BAS operates four Twin Otters, one with a full remote sensing capability. In a typical season the planes will arrive in Antarctica during late October and depart in early March. In total the planes fly for around 1600 hours in the Antarctic supporting the BAS Programme. This season the three other BAS Twin Otter Aircraft will be making additional flights to minimise the impact on planned field operations.