Multipurpose solution for Antarctica and desert
In conjunction with minimal ground access, high winds and extremely low temperatures, Antarctica is known to be one of the most uninhabitable places on earth. The Chilean Air Force (FACh) had their Union Glacier Camp mission fast approaching, which required a long-lasting, yet portable maintenance and research facility.
Over the years, Aviatech hangars have built a reputation within the global community for executing successful operations in conditions similar to Antarctica – Sakhalin, and Siberia. Aviatech inflatable structures are built to withstand the lowest temperatures and are durable for the heaviest snow conditions. It was this reason why Chilean Air Force commissioned Aviatech to develop a customized shelter solution for their operations.
Antarctica has very tight expeditions limits (November to March), and with these time pressures the Chilean AF required something not only durable but also fast to engineer and design, as well as simple to erect in these environmental conditions. The named challenge brought the partnership of Aviatech and Chilean Air Force to fruition.
Aviatech inflatables are super durable, and they are also extremely lightweight. Chilean Air Force command demanded that the packed facility occupies a maximum of 70% of the cargo compartment on their C-130 aircraft and Aviatech inflatables were the only solution to meet such criteria.
Once deployed, Chilean Air Force and Aviatech in the partnership will make history with their facility being the largest human-made building in Antarctica. While such construction may be easier on the shoreline, the location of the Union Glacier makes this project unique.
Union Glacier Camp’s remote location, being 2000 km away from the shoreline, presented many difficulties for the development of the Chilean AF research and maintenance facility. Antarctica is not only the coldest continent on earth due to sub-zero temperatures all year round, but it is also inaccessible for any groundworks, fastening to ice or constructing attachment points.
The camp is only accessible by plane, which limits the number of resources that could be brought in to develop the facility. No ballasting materials are available nearby, and the price of bringing them in is extremely high and irrational, so the Chilean AF needed to think outside of the box.
As the facility would be in operation at Union Glacier Camp just for four months of the year, the Chilean AF wanted to source a universal and cost-effective solution. Therefore, the product they needed had to meet both the extreme environmental conditions of Antarctica, as well as a very diverse climate of Chile due to their ten major climate subtypes within their borders.
Keywords: diverse climate solution, fastening to ice, inaccessible, isolated location, permanent extreme cold
Traditionally, the Aviatech hangar frames are anchored with ballast. This method was not going to work for attaching hangar to the ice during the Chilean AF mission in Antarctica and required intense research and development to come up with a ground fastening solution.
Through this research, Aviatech engineering team was able to develop a new universal anchoring method. This unique solution gives customers the greater flexibility of three anchoring options, allowing their hangar to attached to any surface from ice to concrete and beyond. On top of that, the customers now have the choice of securing the hangar to the surface either by anchors or ballast.
Just in 33 days, standing at 20 meters wide and 30 meters long (600 m²) the packed hangar was ready for delivery. Exceeding industry standards, the entire facility was rapidly shipped on LATAM Air passenger aircraft flights, saving Chilean Air Force thousands of dollars in freight charges. The delivered facility includes energy efficient modular 200 Lux LED lightning and 17×7 meters gates opened by electrical winch system.
Delivery set come with standard additional options:
- A power back-up system, which ensures hangar remains inflated up to 16 hours during power outages
- Telematic system, allowing remote access to hangar data over a cellular network
Even with the engineering challenges, Aviatech finalized this project one week ahead of schedule.
The supervisors at Aviatech ran an in-depth coaching session for 15 officers of Chilean Air Force. The training consisted of a theoretical knowledge transfer and practical exercises to ensure the erection of the structure during the mission in Antarctica will be executed without any concerns. The training took place at the Chilean AF base in Santiago, Pudahuel.
The deployment of the hangar at Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica is scheduled for November 2019. We will ensure an update is posted upon successful completion of the mission.
“Going into this project, we knew this would be a unique case for any company to work on. Aviatech exceeded our expectations in terms of customer service and the work they do. Their team delivered us a great solution for our Union Glacier Scientific Expedition support mission, which has been in its planning stages for several years for now. It is their extensive experience and knowledge in hangar engineering that allowed Aviatech to execute such an outstanding result.”
The world’s fourth oldest independent military air arm in existence, the Chilean Air Force (Spanish: Fuerza Aérea de Chile, FACh) has a total strength of more than 14,000 personnel and over 180 aircraft and helicopters.
As part of their mission, the Chilean Air Force provides transporting of personnel, logistical support, and assets for the studies of Antarctic Scientific Expedition. These specific expeditions make up of a flight plan that covers 3,000 kilometers. The six-hour flight by C-130, leaves from Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile, to Union Glacier Blue-Ice Runway, located just 2,000 kilometers from the South Pole.
Chilean Air Force made its first flight to Antarctica in 1947.