View Full Version : Antarctic Austers

17th Sep 2003, 17:24
I'm going to Antarctica in January and I read an account from the eighties which said that there was 'a British Antarctic Survey aircraft from the fifties' sitting intact in a shed on Deception Island. I am guessing this is one of the ski-equipped Austers. Can anyone confirm this and is it still there? I'll try and take some pics if it is!


17th Sep 2003, 18:49
QDM x 3 takes lots of AvGas and some of your Austering pals from Egesford and fly it back!!!

Ah well, you have to dream sometimes.....

Antartica is an interesting place to go for your hols. :confused: I work with a chap who was on the Antartic Survey 40-odd years ago. He loved the remoteness (he's never been the same since, he was there for 2 YEARS) and also had a glacier named after him. Unfortunately his name is Scott so everybody thinks the glacier (or whatever it was) is named after the other, slightly more famous, Scott. :hmm: :hmm:

17th Sep 2003, 19:19
QDM x 3 takes lots of AvGas and some of your Austering pals from Egesford and fly it back!!!

I can think of some headcases who might. ;-)

Windy Militant
17th Sep 2003, 21:31
Hmm, I'd be really interested to see the size of the belly tank you'd need for that little jaunt! ;)

17th Sep 2003, 21:48
About the size of my belly, beer that is, not tank :eek: :eek: that's only 15 Imperial Gallons

Aerobatic Flyer
17th Sep 2003, 23:01
I'm going to Antarctica in January

I'm very envious! Are you going for a long time, and if so do you need someone to look after the Cub?;)

17th Sep 2003, 23:23
do you need someone to look after the Cub?

Nobody touches my cub, my kids or my woman! ;)

I'm going for three weeks as ship's doctor on a sort of adventure cruise for 45 passengers on a former Russian polar research vessel tot eh Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. It will be a good gig as long as a) I don't get seasick and b) I don't have to deal with a major medical emergency three days or more from the nearest air evacuation.


17th Sep 2003, 23:32
In 1949-50 two RAF Auster 6s equipped with floats, skis and wheels took part in a Norwegian - UK - Swedish Antarctic Expedition, operating from Queen Maud Land.

One is now resident at the RAF Museum Cosford leading me to doubt if they left any behind.

Such nostalgia, I nearly stayed in the RAF after looking that one up, but on second thoughts: Not long to do :Ohttp://www.studio88.co.uk/acatalog/XA-450-s.jpg

18th Sep 2003, 00:11
A quick Google search turned up numerous shots of the dilapidated, orange-painted fusalage of an Otter next to "an old Aircraft hangar" on Deception Island, with the remains of an RAF roundel visible - apparently an ex- British Antartic Survey aircraft. Wonder if this is the abandoned aircraft that was being referred to.


18th Sep 2003, 02:19
Little chance of discovering a hitherto forgotten Auster down there, I fear, QDM. The two Austers (modified T.7s) that accompanied the 1955 British Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Fuchs and Hilary are accounted for. WE600 is on display in the RAF Museum at Cosford. WE563, the reserve aircraft, remained ‘down south’, sold to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and as NZ1707 returned to the Antarctic aboard HMNZS Endeavour in December 1956 and served there until 1960. After a rebuild following a crash in 1966 it is on display in the RNZAF Museum at Wigram in its Antarctic configuration. The Belgians operated a ski-equipped Auster AOP.6 in Antarctica, but I believe that is in the Brussels Museum. That photo of the RAF Otter fuselage raises more questions than it answers. All sources I’ve seen say that the only Otter ever operated by the RAF was XL710, bought new from DHC for that same expedition. It was handed over to the US Navy in 1958 and sold in 1960 to the RNZAF as a support aircraft for its Antarctic operations. It went back to Canada in 1963 and was operated as an amphibian by Georgian Bay Airways until written-off in a crash in 1976. The wreck was later rebuilt by Cox Aviation as its second DHC-3T Turbo Otter conversion. Which begs the question as to what this ‘RAF’ Otter in Antarctica actually is? The British Antarctic Survey operated three Otters, and one was withdrawn from use because of fatigue damage and dismantled, but they were Falklands Islands civil-registered.

18th Sep 2003, 03:32

More shots of the "Deceptioon Otter" here. No reg noted on the paintwork though.

Other clues:

It seems that the BAS Otters were red overall and did not display their Falklands registrations:

Decal option #5 is a DHC-3 Otter used by the British Antarctic Survey serial number 294 and operated in Antarctica between 1959 to 1964. This plane was allotted the registration VP-FAK but it was never applied. The colour scheme of this Otter is overall Bright Red.

(Webpage doesn't show the scheme but does show a decal sheet - includes RAF roundels - although they also include XL710 so not conclusive!


18th Sep 2003, 04:48

Recommended pre-trip reading is :

"Wings Over Ice"
The Falkland Islands & Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition. 1956-57 expedition.

by Peter Mott the Expedition leader

They were based on Deception Island and operated two Canso PBY machines to carry out the survey and an S51 then a Bell 47 helicopter, a very interesting read esp. if you intend visiting Deception Island. 14 hour sorties and constant weather worries. A bunch of tough cookies for sure.

My God father was John Saffery who was the chief pilot for Hunting Air Surveys at the time and deputy expedition leader (he commanded 541 Squadron PRU at Benson in 1944/5 and was a dab hand at taking aerial photos from Griffon Spitfires).

Have a good trip and please share your findings with us!


18th Sep 2003, 16:14
Now that I've checked a bit further I'm fairly sure this must be the BAS's VP-FAL, which was withdrawn from use at Deception Island during the 1966-67 season. It seems that the first two BAS Otters, 'FAK and FAL, did not carry their civil registrations, but had RAF roundels and factory serial nos., while the last one, 'FAM was civilian-marked. 'FAK and 'FAM both crashed, so my money's on this being 'FAL. Mystery solved?

21st Sep 2003, 07:03
Thanks everyone. You certainly know how to ruin a man's day. There I was, in my Antarctic Auster, in flight over the Drake Passage, refuelling the ferry tank from a jerry can....

Nice to have an answer anyway. Thanks a lot. If I can figure out how, and if I actually get thee, I'll post some pics.


21st Sep 2003, 09:56
The two PBY's on the 1956/57 survey were CF-IJJ and CF-IGJ, operated by Kenting Aviation. I had the good fortune to meet the Captain of IGJ, Bob Pettus, ten years later in 1966. At that time Bob was still flying the PBY, for Austin Airways, the same machine that is now ZK-PBY of the New Zealand PBY Historical Society. The other survey Captain was an Englishman named Gavin Robertson.

1st Feb 2004, 21:01
Well, I can confirm it's an Otter, minus engine and anything else unscrewable. Otherwise in good nick. Flying any kind of single on the Antarctic peninsula takes a lot of courage: the water is very, very cold and the winds are vicious.

Hats off to them.


1st Feb 2004, 22:58
QDM- I would appreciate it if you could when you get out there
examine the logistics of moving it to the nearest loading area. This machine really belongs at the Dehavilland Heritage Museum as a tribute the the Dehavilland aircraft and indeed brave pilots who opened up Antartica.

2nd Feb 2004, 01:16
I have just got back. There is no technical problem at all in transporting it, just cost and ownership. The only feasible way to transport it, I guess, would be to persuade the British Antarctic Survey, who I suppose are the owners, that it would be better off in a museum in the UK or wherever and get them to bring it back on one of their ships. Like I say, no technical problem that BAS couldn't easily solve.

I understand there is a proposal by an Aussie millionaire to create an aviation museum at Deception, but I don't know if it's just talk or will come to anything.


4th Feb 2004, 04:16
Thanks for the reply! I guess she is very derelict but she could be a start. How far is she from the harbour?

4th Feb 2004, 05:16
RileyDove, if you're serious about recovering the relic, PM me - I have a contact in the BAS at Cambridge and may be able to get you an 'in' to the team and further info. But I will need some positive info from you before I start talking to BAS.

4th Feb 2004, 07:52
If anyone has any, and I mean any questions about PBYs world wide, go to CHUCKELLSWORTH.COM. He is a 25,000 hour pilot who has flown just about anything with wings and rotors and is a recognized expert on PBY's.

6th Feb 2004, 02:51

She's very close to the harbour -- hundred yards or so. It's a gently sloping, completely sheltered volcanic beach. One of fthe BAS ships could get her home, no sweat. The wings and tail surfaces are in the hangar, the fuselage outside.


Silas Blattner
8th Feb 2004, 07:54
Why retrieve it ?. There are plenty still flying , a few in museums, even an Antarctic one in Brussels. Why not just leave it there as a memorial if you must, like any of the huts that are supposed to be left alone and all the other bits and pieces: Hercs all over the Domes, Mils on the Ronne, Hueys in the Dry Valleys, Twotters all over the place. Endurance at the bottom of the Weddell. Spend the DHC money on something else - leave it be. Not meant to be remotely rude.


8th Feb 2004, 22:45
Good point, especially if anything is ever down about some kind of aviation memorial at Deception Island. It's a very historic place.


9th Feb 2004, 06:22
Silas - Interesting points . However Deception is indeed historic but far more for Norwegian whaling and the British use of the Island for surveillance on enemy shipping during WW.2.
The FIDS and later BAS base at Deception was only open for eight years and was used for maintainance and wintering.
Some would argue that the Otter is another part of the detritus
that we enflict on the enviroment.
The Otter as a type is indeed plentiful but I would suggest
plentiful at $500,000 . If however you want one for a museum
well your pretty much left out in the cold. The work carried out
by FIDS/BAS in aerial exploration is little understood in the U.K.
The aircraft itself was paid for by the tax payer - I would suggest
that a better use for her would be to be restored and appreciated in the U.K.
Whilst the idea of a aircraft museum on Deception is romantic - the stark reality of public liability insurance on a
semi active volcanno might well make it untennable.
The idea of leaving an aircraft out to rot is okay except for a couple of factors - the nature of people to remove souvenirs
and the fact that the corrosion that grounded her in 1967
hasn't stopped since. If saved and brought home now she could
form a fitting tribute to Antartic exploration and the people
who died carrying it out. If left there she will remain a curiosity
to a few weathy travellers who will continue to post pictures
on websites of 'abandoned RAF plane on Deception' which hardly
tells the story of why she is there.

9th Feb 2004, 11:22
For what it's worth.....

During a doco film on satellite TV on Australia's Antarctic bases, there was the briefest colour clip, maybe only a few second, of what appeared to be a float equipped Auster landing alongside a supply ship. It was obviously all over orange and had roundels.

Far too fleeting to see any other markings, but my guess it was an ANTARE civil contractor.


Maybe not civil?? Just found this: "...RAAF serials A11-1 to A11-56, replaced in 1959 by C180..."

The doco clip would definately have been in the late 50's I suspect, as the ship looked like one of the Dans - Nella Dan, Kista Dan etc.

Still later still......

From another site: In addition, two Auster Mk 6 aircraft A11-200 and A11-201, accompanied the 1953/54 Antarctic Expedition, and Sqn Ldr Leckie again used A11-201 on the 1955/56 voyage. Also, Auster J-5G Autocar aircraft of the Royal Australian Navy carried the RAAF prefix A11 and were numbered from A11-300.


Hybrid Auster on sea ice at Horseshoe Harbour 1954. RAAF photo

When both aircraft were damaged in a shipboard incident two days after arriving in Horseshoe Harbour, one was cannibalised for spare parts. The repaired hybrid aircraft was jettisoned from the Kista Dan later in the same summer, after breaking its tie-downs and fouling the lifeboats.

Interesting Auster Story (http://www.home.aone.net.au/stories/doc/runaway.htm). Names changed to protect the guilty.

Learn something everyday. :ok: Time to get back to work! :8

9th Feb 2004, 17:03

The RAAF operated two ex-British Auster AOP.6s on behalf of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition in 1953-54, RAAF serials as noted. On that expedition they flew 64 survey sorties, logging about 80 hours in the hands of (then, later Sqn Ldr) Flt Lt Douglas Leckie of Ivanhoe, Victoria and Flt Sgt Ray Seaver, of Newcastle, NSW.

The big batch of RAAF Austers you mention were WW2-era Mark IIIs.

From memory I think the RAN had two Autocars.

Incidentally, for any of you who make models, Airfix have just re-released their long unobtainable and highly-prized (read 'very expensive if you can find one') plastic kit of the Auster Antarctic, for a modest £3.99.