This is the eighteenth entry in the Armed with Science series, Dispatches from Antarctica. The series features Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan’s first-hand experiences on OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE, the Defense Department’s support of National Science Foundation research in Antarctica.
14 October 2010, McMurdo Station, Antarctica: Repairing a crack in the seasonal ice runway—Gary Cardullo, USAP Airfield Operations Manager
Gary Cardullo is not happy today. That’s standard. As airfield manager here for over a decade, he knows his job. And he makes it his job not to be happy unless the airplanes have perfect ice and snow for takeoff and landing and parking. And with Gary’s high standards and Antarctica’s lack of cooperation, perfection is hard to come by.
Today’s level of unhappiness is heightened. Gary’s team discovered a crack about 2,500 feet down the seasonal ice runway. The crack is about a foot across and 50-60 feet long, requiring Gary to declare a displaced threshold, effectively reducing the usable length of the ice runway.
Even on good days, engineers and surveyors constantly monitor the ice surface to determine the deformation due to large airplanes landing, taxiing, and parking on it. Normally, such deformations spring back into original shape after the plane leaves. Other times, if the aircraft is too heavy or sits in one place too long, its weight may lead to cracking. But that’s not the case today.
In this case, the crack was most likely there all along, or caused by the natural action of multi-year sea ice shifting against the annual ice of the shipping channel. In any event, the airfield manager and his team must repair it, or C-17 flights to McMurdo could be disrupted. Please watch the above video for the story.