Wick airport hosts polar explorer
A SPECIALLY modified vintage aircraft dropped by Wick John O'Groats Airport after researching climate change in the Arctic region.
The Douglas DC3, originally manufactured in 1943, has been converted to a Basler BT67 aircraft capable of monitoring the thickness of polar sea ice and how it may have been affected by global warming.
A Wick Airport spokesman said: "Both polar 6 and her sister Polar 5 are fairly regular visitors. They stop in Wick for fuel on their way across the Atlantic – usually coming from Iceland."
The DC3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft that revolutionised air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting effect on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever produced.
The converted DC3 at Wick is property of Kenn Borek Air, a Canadian company, and works for the German-based Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) – an internationally respected centre of expertise on polar and marine research.
Much of the AWI’s research is conducted in the inaccessible, ice-covered regions of the Arctic and Antarctic, making research aircraft indispensable. Currently the AWI relies on the research planes Polar 5 and Polar 6.
The two Basler BT-67 planes have been specially modified for flying under extreme polar conditions. Their landing gear, which combine skis and conventional tyres, allow them to land on and take off from concrete, gravel or snow. Thanks to de-icing systems, heating mats for the batteries and engines, and advanced navigation systems, the craft can even fly “blind” on instruments alone, safely land despite severe weather, and operate at temperatures down to -54 degrees Celsius.
AWI researchers use the aircraft to better understand processes at work in the polar regions, and to monitor and record interactions between the Earth’s crust, ice- and snow-covered areas, oceans and the atmosphere.
Several times a year, Polar 5 and Polar 6 fly weeks-long expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. They carry on board a diverse range of scientific equipment, much of which was developed at the AWI.
Wick Airport posts updates on its schedules and any interesting visitors like the Polar 6 on its Facebook page.