On Sunday, the Russian heavy cargo plane IL-76TD conducted a unique parachuting operation in the South Pole area, reports the Interfax news agency.
The aircraft’s commander was renowned Russian pilot Ruben Esayan.
The operation was performed from approximately 500 meters at a speed 300 km/h, parachuting 26 cargo platforms, 1200 kg each, with fuel for smaller airplanes Russian scientists use to travel to the South Pole from the Vostok and Novolazarevskaya bases in Antarctica.
The plane took off from the airfield at Novolazarevskaya station, delivered the cargo and returned, covering 7,000 kilometers overall. During the flight, navigation was done using both GPS and GLONASS equipment.
Currently, there is the Amundsen–Scott South Pole American scientific research station with an airfield near the pole. While the Americans do not object to other planes using the field, they cannot refuel them, so Russia is creating its own fuel base near the South Pole. The base will be used by expeditions from Russia’s Institute of the Arctic and Antarctic.
The next cargo drop is scheduled for November 23.
In the 1980s the IL-76s were performing airlift deliveries for expeditions to the North Pole. In 2005 they appeared in Antarctica, bringing supplies to the Vostok scientific research station. Now the flights have probably reached the farthest point on Earth, the heart of the sixth continent.
The deputy chief designer from the Ilyushin design bureau told Interfax that the division of Antarctica, which is rich in natural resources, is a question to be discussed in the near future and, therefore, Russia’s presence on the continent is a must.