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Thursday, January 28, 1999:

Blackhawk to South Pole in record flight

THE SOUTH POLE ( Sikorsky Press Release ) - A new chapter was written in aeronautical history today when a S-70 Blackhawk helicopter commanded by the Chief of the Chilean Air Force, General Fernando Rojas Vender, landed at Amundsen-Scott Air Base at the South Pole.

The flight marked the first time a helicopter flew more than 4,568 kilometers (2,832 miles) to unite the city of Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile with the South Pole.

This historic journey, christened "Operacion Aurora Austral" (dawn of southern lights), was initiated without incident. The Chilean Air Force Blackhawk followed a flight plan that included as refueling points the following Air Bases in the Antarctic:

  • Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, 1,238 kilometers (768 miles) from Punta Arenas;
  • Sub Base Lt. Carvajal, 776 kilometers (481 miles) from Presidente Frei;
  • Patriot Hills, 1,470 kilometers (912 miles) from Carvajal, and
  • finally to the South Pole, a distance of 1,084 kilometers (672 miles) where for the first time a helicopter of any type has flown and landed.
  • General Rojas identified the hero of this mission as the S-70A Blackhawk from their Aviation Group 9, which had recently been acquired by the Air Force.

    In July 1998, the Chilean Air Force took delivery of its first S-70A Blackhawk helicopter at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation's main facility in Stratford, Conn.

    The aircraft acquired as part of a major aircraft replacement program for the Chilean Air Force. Chile plans to replace the current UH-1 Huey fleet with Blackhawk helicopters. Chilean Air Force plans call for the purchase of additional new S-70 aircraft during the next several years.

    More than 2,400 Blackhawk variants, including naval derivatives, are serving, or are on contract, with the governments of 24 nations -- Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, People's Republic of China, Spain, Taiwan, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Turkey.

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