Antarctic research mission helicopter crashes
Updated: 2011-12-10 08:04
By Wang Qian (China Daily)
The Xueying helicopter lies heavily damaged after crashing in Antarctica in the small hours of Friday Beijing time. The two crew members were safely returned to their supporting icebreaker. Huang Xiaoxi / Xinhua
Both crew members brought to safety; expedition will continue
BEIJING - A helicopter returning from delivering supplies and equipment to the 28th Antarctic research expedition crashed in the small hours of Friday (Beijing time), the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said. No casualties were reported.
"The crash won't have much effect on the inland scientific expedition at the South Pole, because the delivery of supplies and research equipment there was finished before Wednesday," Qu Tanzhou, director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, said at a news conference on Friday afternoon.
The two crew members in the Xueying - Snow Eagle - were reported to be safe, though one was slightly injured. They were both brought back to the icebreaker Xuelong, Qu said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation and will be released on the SOA's website in a timely manner, he said.
According to the SOA, the pilot lost control of the craft while flying back to the icebreaker, after delivering supplies to China's Zhongshan research station.
The helicopter crashed into an iceberg after an attempted forced landing failed.
The Antarctic expedition is covered by an 80 million yuan ($12.5 million) accidental damage insurance policy with China Pacific Insurance Co Ltd (CPIC). The helicopter is worth $8.5 million, the SOA said.
"The accident investigation and retrieval of the helicopter are urgent," Qu said.
He said they are trying to find the best way to retrieve the craft and bring it back to the icebreaker, to minimize any environmental impact, without jeopardizing the safety of expedition members.
But he expected the work to be difficult because of the extreme weather conditions at the pole.
"The accident's impact on the 28th Antarctic research expedition is being evaluated," Xia Limin, director of the general management department of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration told China Daily.
Aside from the helicopter, which can carry 5 tons of cargo, the Xuelong has a small plane with a 1-ton capacity.
Xia said remaining supplies and research equipment needed by coastal posts of the expedition can be delivered by the plane or, when the ice melts, by ship.
The accident will not significantly affect the expedition, he added.
The helicopter, bought from Russia in December 2008, began serving Chinese Antarctic expeditions in 2009 and was on its third such mission when the crash occurred.
The SOA held an emergency response meeting on Friday morning to arrange the next step in dealing with the incident.
(China Daily 12/10/2011 page3)