sandwich (sandwichgirl) wrote,

pegasus plane crash

you know you're hard up on boring workaday life when you sign up to visit a plane wreck (or are signed up to lead it.) as they say in the galley, "anything to break the monotony."

opening day, october 1970, a C-121J super constellation called "pegasus" crashed into an airfield near mcmurdo. a storm had blown in from the south, as they're known to do, and completely eliminated visibility. the flight had already passed PSR*, therefore lacked fuel to turn around and was left with no choice but to 'put the girl down.' after circling the runway for hours without getting a visual, they caught a quick glimpse on the last pass and set 'er down, sliding into a heavy snowdrift caused by the storm and spinned the connie around while flinging off a couple propellers, a couple engines, and the entire right wing. nobody died.

it is speculated that the crash has since been moved just out of sight of the runway so as to not have an impact on morale as you arrive/depart antarctica. meh.

half buried in snow, with a vandalised tail proudly stading high, this piece of work has now become a bit of a local tourist attraction. i have known about it for several years, but have never been out to it, even though it's only about a mile and a half from the pegasus runway.(pegasus is now the name of the ice runway on the ice shelf where the heavy wheeled aircraft fly in/out of after the sea ice runway closes, it's about a 45 minute drive from town in a delta.) it's one of those things that you could probably get to if you knew someone or something. i've volunteered as a trip leader for wednesday night recreation trips out to cape evans this season, but now that the road to evans has deteriorated, we got the go-ahead to take delta* trips to the constellation.

it was fun. a beautiful evening. clouds clung to erebus. many janitors and galley folk left their parkas behind to go frolicking on the snow smothered plane. people did not get hurt. some motivated fellows shoveled out the entire nose art of the winged horse.

after an hour or so, we loaded back up into the deltas and headed back. after 5 minutes and a strong fuel smell, i figured all was not right. i looked behind me, where the engine housing and the fuel tanks separated my cab and the passenger cab. i could barely see through the smoke. i heard the words "blown head gasket" somewhere and those are words i recognize. it would not be right to go on like this. delta 363 is the oldest delta. she hurts sometimes.
i pulled over and radioed shuttles, macops*, and VMF* and emptied both deltas. i filled the other delta (there are 2 deltas on most trips) with most of my pax, leaving 4 behind plus myself, and sent them back to town while we hiked to the runway and waited an hour for a shuttle pickup. we abandoned the delta, who was backdropped by a backlit mount discovery. she was beautiful and orange and boxy and alone on the ross ice shelf.

i called back into macops just before my ETR of midnight as "5 souls safely returned to mactown. party formerly known as delta 363, clear."

**PSR = point of safe return, mainly for changing weather conditions. if you hit PSR, and weather at mactown is condition 2 or 1, you boomerang*.
**boomerang = board at chc, fly with the intent of landing in mcm, disembark in chc.
**delta = large old navy vehicle, barely staying alive. can hold 14-20 passengers. gross weight: 42,000 lbs. tires: 5 1/2 feet tall. you must climb a ladder to get in.
**macops = radio control, monitors all movement outside of town.
**VMF = vehicle maintenance facility
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