Chilean airline DAP, based in Punta Arenas, has announced its flight schedule to Antarctica for the coming austral summer. According to the airline, it plans to operate more than 150 flights to the white continent between mid-November and March. This represents an increase of 30% compared to the last summer season.
Founded in 1980 and based at Punta Arenas Airport, the airline has been flying between South America and Antarctica for 33 years.
The company usually performs three types of flights: Charter flights for passengers of cruise and expedition ships, which forms the main part of the activity. Also flights for logistics and support of Antarctic programs of different countries, as well as possible evacuations for medical reasons are part of DAP’s portfolio.
Nicolás Paulsen, head of DAP’s charter division, said the increase in frequencies reflects the increased interest and demand for flights to Antarctica since the resurgence in activity. “Things are picking up now, mainly because of good vaccination coverage,” he said.
Paulsen also highlighted that air links between the Chilean Magallanes region and Antarctica represent a regional, national and international advantage. “This connection means not only comparative advantages for Chile, but also competitive advantages, since the volume of air operations has an economic importance for many countries,” he explained.
Aerovías DAP made its first flight to Antarctica on February 12, 1989. On this day, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, registration CC-CHV, conducted a sanitary evacuation. Four months later, and after several unsuccessful attempts (weather conditions are a recurring factor in the cancellation of flights to Antarctic bases), the first commercial flight was made.
Air services to Antarctica were operated by the Twin Otter until the mid-1990s. Then the aircraft was replaced by a Beechcraft King Air 100.
In 2003, Aerovías DAP added a De Havilland Canada Dash 7 to its fleet to offer more seats in response to a growing demand. Four years later, the company received the first British Aerospace 146-200, a 96-seat aircraft that now plays a key role in its operations.
Today, the company has a fleet of airplanes and helicopters that provide a network of commercial and logistic services. It is the largest aviation company in Antarctica.
Flights from Punta Arenas land at the “Aeródromo Teniente Rodolfo Marsh Martin” on King George Island, the northernmost airfield around the Antarctic continent. The distance to Puerto Williams, the nearest airport in the south of Chile, is 950 kilometers.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal