The propeller aircraft of the Chilean military was launched on Monday morning in Santiago and flowed over Punta Arenas in the south of the country on Tierra del Fuego towards the Antarctic continent. There, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules should put on 19.17 clock on the slopes of the Chilean station Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva.
But already above the Drake Passage, as the sea between Cape Horn and the northern foothills of the Antarctic is called, broke the radio contact – ten minutes before the next reporting point. At the time, the Hercules KC-130R was 390 miles from the South American mainland and 280 miles from Frei Station.
Why the machine disappeared from the radar screens, so far there is no explanation. Also no emergency call was received by the crew. The Fuerza Aérea de Chile, the Chilean Air Force, has already initiated a search operation with ships and aircraft.
According to the media, 17 crew members and 21 passengers were on board, including 15 Air Force members, three from the army, two journalists and a scientist.
Proven transport machine of the Herkules type
The missing machine is one of the working animals of the Luftwaffe. The transport machine is one of the longest produced aircraft in aviation history. Since 1956 Lockheed has built 2500 copies. The four-engine shoulder decker is used by more than 80 states. Thanks to the hydraulically lowered ramp ramp in the rear, the aircraft can be loaded and unloaded quickly and retrofitted for different operations from material to troop transport.
Thanks to the robust chassis, the Herkules can also operate on grass runways. Also on supply flights to research stations in the Antarctic, the reliable aircraft have been proven for decades.
The German Air Force has ordered six copies of the Hercules – three of them as a tanker version – which will be delivered from 2021 and stationed together in the common air transport squadron with the French in Evreux. They are to replace the aging Transall machines and increase the transport capacity of the Luftwaffe in addition to the larger Airbus A400M.
The tragic flight Air New Zealand 901
Just a few days ago, the 40th anniversary of one of the worst catastrophic events took place: On November 28, 1979, all 237 passengers and 20 crew members were killed during a flight over Antarctica when a DC10-30 from Air New Zealand crashed on Mount Erebus. The flight with the code 901 was launched in Auckland like many other Antarctic sightseeing flights before, but there had been a route change that was not properly communicated internally.
Flying in deep clouds at that time the pilots already believed themselves over the sea. Instead, they flew at only 600 meters height against the flank of the almost 4000 meter high volcano. The disaster went down in the history of New Zealand as a national trauma, because subsequently was also tried in the investigations to cover up some mistakes.
Just two weeks ago, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, apologized to the bereaved. Air New Zealand was then state-owned and therefore responsible. "I know the time has come to say I'm sorry," she said 40 years after the disaster in Antarctica.