RV Polarstern
Our contribution to climate research

In the Autumn of 2019, the research vessel (RV) Polarstern of the Alfred Wegener Institute became frozen in the permanent Arctic ice. The ship, frozen in ice, is now drifting with the floe through the seas. The year-round polar expedition in the Arctic is gathering important and new information on climate change, the condition of the oceans, and the conservation of endangered species. And HeliService is part of this important mission! Two HeliService helicopters (Airbus Helicopter MBB-BK117) are part of the icebreaker-led expedition.

Reliable, professional, essential – that is the HeliService mission for the RV Polarstern.

The helicopter operations are varied, they require diverse expertise of operations and procedures. They range from passenger and freight transport to geographic surveying flights, flights for image recording and wildlife surveys. Our pilots carry a lot of responsibility during their operations – and after the flying is done, too. When landing on ice, it is essential to analyse the ground conditions and environmental conditions. The ice is constantly changing, and no two ground areas are alike.

We go beyond the ‘normal’ for our customers. No compromises.

During the summer months, three to five expeditions take place in the Arctic. In the winter months (during the southern summer), about four expeditions in Antarctica take place.

The Polarstern

The researchers of the German research vessel “Polarstern” are exploring the Arctic and Antarctic. During the current MOSAiC expedition, the vessel freezes in the permanent ice and drifts with the floes in the Arctic Sea. The researchers’ and vessel’s journey around the pole takes over a year. And right in the middle of it: HeliService. Our helicopters and pilots – specially trained for this kind of extreme environment – are supporting the researchers on their mission.

People

Pilot: Carsten Zillgen

I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was a little boy. For the very first time I came into contact with airplanes in a gliding club. I was about 14 years old. Ever since then it has been my desire to pursue this professionally.
After 12 years of service as a helicopter pilot in the Bundeswehr, 14 years as a rescue helicopter pilot with many thousands of rescue missions followed. Since 2018, I have been able to contribute myself and my experience to expeditions with the research vessel Polarstern on missions in the polar regions. The daily new challenges, the work with many different people from all parts of the world and the beautiful and mostly untouched nature of the polar regions are what make this activity so unique and interesting. The hardest thing for me on such long missions is and will always be the long distance home to my family
and friends.

About:
Professional experience: 29 years as a helicopter pilot in military and air rescue service
Training: US Army, Fort Rucker (Alabama) and German Army/Air Force
Experience in the ice: Fourth Polarstern expedition

RV Polarstern
RV Polarstern

Pilot: Lukas Piotrowski

I started my career as a helicopter pilot with the armed forces in Bückeburg, Germany. I completed a number of oversea tours during my time in the forces, including Africa, Afghanistan and the Balkans. After 14 years in the armed forces, I moved into the civil world in 2008. I worked as an offshore pilot at the German Bight and flew sea pilots onto ships or picked them up from departing ships. During my 20+ of flying I have gained a whole lot of experience, like flying at high wind speeds, operating in challenging situations and flying over rough seas. These qualifications are an ideal basis for my participation in the Polarstern expedition.

About:
Professional experience: Over 20 years as a helicopter pilot
Training: Helicopter pilot in the armed forces
Experience in the ice: Second Polarstern expedition

Technician: Dave Stenssen

Safety and maintenance of the helicopters are of crucial importance. In order to carry out inspection and maintenance in a targeted manner, the expected scope, the associated processing time and the resulting costs must be correctly assessed and estimated. This is an essential task of our technicians. Over the years, HeliService has built up a system which documents and analyses the scope of maintenance and costs. Thanks to this, a tailor-made, clearly structured and detailed action plan can then be drawn up. In order to guarantee safety during the polar flights, one of our technicians is on board of every flight – without exception.

About:
Technical certification: EASA Part 145

RV Polarstern
RV Polarstern

Technikerin: Elena Maria Prieto Turienzo

HeliService provided me the opportunity to improve my mechanical skills and grow up professionally as a mechanic. For me it was like a dream coming true being able to join my colleagues on the Polarstern expeditions.

I remember seeing Polarstern for the first time, it was this summer in Bremerhaven after its return from Antarctic. The first thought coming to my mind, upon seeing it docked in the harbour, was “This ship is big, how am I going to remember where everything is?”

When you are not present on the ship, you do not really understand the difference between working on land and working while cruising on the ship. Sometimes the days spent on board can seem long, other times it can become exhausting due to the workload, but at the end of the day you realize that everything you do is worth your time.

My first expedition, PS 121, was In the Arctic. The flight over Svalbard, seeing the snowy and icy landscapes, was a sight I will never forget.

MOSAiC is the biggest arctic scientific expedition of all times. I am glad and at the same time, excited for being able to take part at this polar expedition. Staying on board the frozen Polarstern for three months in a row, at the beginning still in the darkness and slowly drifting into twilight will be a challenge.

HeliService took the time to prepare us for this expedition. We went through many trainings which would increase our knowledge on safety. The most important training to be mentioned, would be the “Ice survival” course, which we had for three days in Austria, at -20 degrees, on a glacier. This training gave us a better understanding on how to handle the situation when something happens, and you are trapped somewhere far away from the ship. One needs survival skills, until the rescue team reaches you.

My MOSAiC will start on January 23rd, 2020.

About:
Technical certification: EASA Part 145
Training: Training in Österreich at around -20°C
Experience in the ice: First Polarstern expedition

Interview with Harold on his experience as a pilot at the MOSAiC Expedition

Gallery

Technology

RV Polarstern Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (now Airbus Helicopters) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries jointly developed this helicopter. From the beginning, great emphasis was placed on versatility and reliability.

MBB-BK 117 C-1 is very popular with pilots thanks to its balanced flight characteristics and ease of use. All HeliService helicopters have been meticulously upgraded to the latest standards to give passengers the highest level of safety.

Technical specifications:
Maximum take-off weight: 3,600 kg
Travel speed: 135 kts | 250 km/h
Transport capacity: 6 passengers
Endurance: 2.5 hours
Hoist load: 272 kg

RV Polarstern

Nightscanner search and landing lights

Together with the helicopter operator Heli Service International, SPAES GmbH & Co. KG has issued an EASA Supplement Type Certificate (STC) for the installation of an additional search and landing lights in the Airbus BK 117 C-1. The lights installed in the lower fuselage can be swivelled vertically by the pilot and turned horizontally through 360°. This allows optimum illumination of external areas during night operations.

Nightscanner® search and landing lights are now installed in two HeliService helicopters. They are deployed on the research vessel “Polarstern”, which will carry out various research projects on climate change at the North Pole over the coming months.

RV Polarstern

Technical specifications:

Attachment: Modification of the lower bow shell of the helicopter
Operation: Built-in control element on the pitch in the cockpit
Certificate: Certified according to European Technical Standards (ETSO)
Built in: Airbus BK 117

19 countries working hand-in-hand

600 selected experts from a wide range of countries are part of the Polarstern team. We are proud that Carsten Zillgen and Lukas Piotrowski from HeliService are supporting the research crew, helping to discover more about climate change.

Media

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MOSAiC Liveticker

In Cooperation with

RV Polarstern
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