The Greenland Ice Cap is one of the most remote places on Earth. When scientists doing cutting edge research on climate change need supplies or personnel, only the Air National Guard's 109th Division out of Scotia can deliver. They are the only outfit equipped to navigate to this unstable and dangerous place. Capital News 9's "Destination Greenland" series highlights this incredible journey and takes you to meet the crew of pilots in the air and the scientists on the ground who depend on them.
The men and women of the 109th Airlift Wing out of Scotia are the only people in the world qualified to carry out their unique mission. After all landing a 124,000 pound airplane on skis on ice is a pretty specialized skill. So how does one go about getting the job of piloting a C-130 onto the landing strip atop the Greenlandic Ice Sheet? Our Kaitlyn Ross and Videographer Victor Lopez followed the crew on their mission for part two of our series to see just what it takes.
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"People that ride with us, they don't see a thing. The snow, the horizon, the sky. It's ballet, it's like aircraft ballet. It all blends together, just one big white blur. Putting an aircraft on the snow and then getting that baby back up again, it's a unique talent I think," said Operations Group Commander Gary James.
It's so unique that the 109th is the only unit in the world doing it. Training for such drastic climates can only be done site on scene.
"There's just no way to train in the states so that elongates the training process I think," said James. "This is the old North Grip post, then you look, you've got Thule, Summit, then you have Saunderstorm, and Raven down here. Raven is really efficient for us to get to. Everything we need to do we can do at Raven. The only reason it's here is to train us, it's not operational."
A copilot has to train anywhere from three to five years to make it to the left seat, doing takeoffs and landings in the snow here at Raven. The camp is only operational from mid-April through late August.
"You're bringing a C-130 to land on snow that maybe no one in the world has ever seen before," said co-pilot Mike Kelly. "You're bringing a C-130 to land on snow that maybe no one in the world has ever seen before."
That snow can cause a number of problems. Flying without visibility into unknown territories, the pilots end up battling the same ground they land on.
"Our enemy is the weather and the climate. You can see we watch it very very closely and then we take care of business. It's been going on for many, many years out here," said Mission Commander Chris Sander.
Battle or not, it is that environment that keeps each member of the 109th coming back year after year.