Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 4:49 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Defence Force
17 January 2005

RNZAF Orion Lands on Antartica










For the first time a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion has landed on the ice runways of Antarctica.

The P3-K Orion, from No. 5 Squadron was conducting a trial flight to the region. The trial flight will determine the feasibility of conducting patrols from Antarctica in support of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The aircraft, with thirteen crew on board landed on the Ice yesterday afternoon and is now on its way back to Christchurch.

While the aircraft and crew has operated in extreme cold weather conditions before, this is the first time they have operated from an ice runway.

Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Dick Newlands says the trial flight will confirm whether or not the Orion can operate from the Pegasus Airfield at Antarctica. "Pending the outcome of this trial flight future surveillance missions may operate from Antarctica with specific emphasis on meeting the CCAMLR surveillance, deterrence and enforcement requirements," said Air Commodore Newlands.

The flight was welcomed by New Zealand's CCAMLR Commissioner, Trevor Hughes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"These flights are in support of the CCAMLR Convention, which aims to conserve the precious marine life of the Southern Ocean. The Orion flights demonstrate how seriously New Zealand takes CCAMLR's goals," said Mr Hughes.

Antarctica New Zealand CEO Lou Sanson says operating out of Antarctica would provide greater direct access to the Southern Ocean.

"We are grateful to the RNZAF for the possibilities this trial presents in terms of the New Zealand Antarctic programme's future capability. In addition it gives New Zealand the opportunity to assist with additional SAR and medevac coverage," said Mr Sanson.

Planning for the trial flight began nearly two years ago and is not a result of the current activity in the Southern Ocean, which is currently out of the range of the Orion.

The P3-K Orion The Royal New Zealand Air Force operates six P3-K Orion's as part of No. 5 Squadron, at RNZAF Base Auckland in Whenuapai.

The maritime surveillance aircraft regularly conduct fisheries and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrols and perform tasks such as resource protection, surveillance and search and rescue missions.

A programme is currently underway to upgrade the Orion's missions systems, including radar, navigation and communication systems.