When Lockheed LC-130F Hercules 148319 of the United States Navy's Air Development Squadron Six (VXE-6) touched down at Williams Field near McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic at noon on Christmas Day 1976 it brought an historic recovery project to a close. The US Navy had successfully concluded an unparalleled two year, $2 million recovery of three downed Hercules from desolate, sub-zero Dome Charlie, a lonely outpost 1,150 kilometres away in Wilkes Land and at an altitude of 3,500 metres (10,549 ft) amsl.
The idea of large passenger aircraft moving about among snow-capped mountains is incongruous, yet it becomes a reality in New Zealand's Southern Alps almost every day. In an operation unique to Mount Cook Airlines and its fleet of Hawker Siddely 748s, passengers are ferried to and from mountain airfields — some very meagre, and one no more than a grass airfield — in a tourist airline venture that has grown from one DC-3 in 1963 to today's four 748s. WINGS assistant editor Ross Ewing recently flew for two days with an MCA airliner crew to find out a little more about the country's third airline, and the 748.