AGO6: One summer we setup a small field camp in East Antarctica to support aircraft operations in the area. Two friends of mine were already staged there as they were on their way to a remote weather observatory hut—AGO 6—for week of maintenance. Knowing what was ahead of them, they begged and pleaded with the snowmobile fleet manager to let them take the brand new Skandic snowmobile. It was the first new snowmobile in years and a new generation machine that everyone was anxious to use. The fleet manager reluctantly allowed them to take it and was adamant they return it in the same condition which he he gave them in. Of course they promised to be very careful.

I was scheduled to leave the field camp and head to AGO 5—a small field camp in the opposite direction of AGO 6—to help service the station for a few days, so come Sunday morning I flew up as a single passenger on a de Havilland Twin Otter. Several hours later I arrived at the field camp to begin a few days of high altitude acclimatization before the work started. The next day the Twin Otter reappeared, this time with passengers for the field camp, after dropping them off, the crew loaded my two friends and the new Skandic and they took off for AGO 6.

Hours late for their communication check–in and missing their planned dinner, folks started to get concerned something went wrong at AGO 6. Hours passed before we finally heard word from McMurdo Station that there had been an aircraft incident at AGO 6—luckily there were no serious injuries. After several days of coordinating LC-130 Hercules air support to recover the aircraft and crew, I spent several days palletizing the aircraft parts to ship back to McMurdo. Knowing no one was killed or seriously injured made it easier to deal with.

Later, I would learn the great irony of the incident! My two friends were sitting on the new snowmobile near the weather hut while the Twin Otter was preparing to take off. One friend was watching the aircraft as it began accelerating for take off while the other was casually looking down at his gloves. Moments later the one friend unexpectedly yelled “jump”. As the other friend looked up, he could see the Twin Otter flying directly at them with one wing dipping straight down and starting to drag its tip into the snow surface. The aircraft was coming straight at them so quickly that they barely had time to jump off the snowmobile and roll away. Seconds later the aircraft wing proceeded to impact and split the snowmobile in half. So much for returning the new snowmobile back in good condition!

After we recovered the snowmobile I could clearly see its seat and cowling split in half. The carpenter shop use about $10,000 worth of lumber to build a crate for the remains of the Twin Otter, it was eventually loaded onto a ship and sent back to Canada for a rebuild. We all knew someone in Canada would build a massive tool shed out of that lumber.