Officials with the U.S. Antarctic Program are cooperating with their Italian and New Zealand counterparts, as well as the Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington, NZ, in a search-and-rescue effort to locate a propeller-driven aircraft that is believed to have crashed in a remote and mountainous part of Antarctica.
A three-person crew is believed to have been aboard the de Havilland Twin Otter when contact was lost with the plane in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, Eastern Standard Time (U.S. stations in Antarctica keep New Zealand time). The nationalities of the crew are unconfirmed at this point.
The missing plane was flying in support of the Italian Antarctic Program under the logistical responsibility of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), and was en route from NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the Italian research station at Terra Nova Bay when contact was lost with the aircraft in a remote region of the Transantarctic Mountains.
The aircraft is owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd., a Canadian firm headquartered in Calgary that charters aircraft to the U.S. program.
Communications between U.S. officials at McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre confirmed that an emergency locator beacon had been activated.
Officials are monitoring conditions at the site, where the weather is currently very poor, to decide when to launch a search of the area and what kind of aircraft to use.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) manages the U.S. Antarctic Program through which it coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and in the surrounding Southern Ocean as well as providing the necessary logistical support for the science.