The De Havilland Canada Dash-7 (DHC-7) is a four engined aircraft with a worldwide reputation for reliability, economy and performance. It made its first flight to Antarctica in 1994.
The cabin of the Dash-7 is pressurised – some airlines use the plane to transport up to 50 passengers on short-haul routes. The version operated by BAS has had a variety of technical modifications. These include the fitting of long range fuel tanks with a fuel jettison system, large cargo door and strengthened cargo floor. It has also been fitted with enhanced avionics and navigation systems. It usually seats 12-16 people.
BAS chose the Dash-7 for its rugged design, fuel efficiency and, crucially, short take off and landing capability. As a result of its large slow-turning propellers, the aircraft is quiet in operation.
During the Antarctic summer the Dash-7 makes regular flights to and from the Falklands. The 1,900km journey can be completed in five hours with up to 16 passengers or 2,000kg of cargo on board. The introduction of the aircraft as an intercontinental link allows some scientists to make relatively short trips for summer fieldwork, rather than spending the entire season south if they were to travel by ship. It has also provided a regular link for spares, urgent supplies and fresh food as well as freeing up the two BAS ships, enabling them to spend more time at sea on scientific cruises.
Wing span: 28.4 m
Length: 24.5 m
Take off weight: 21,320 kg
Engines: 4 turbo prop
Range: 4,000km (1,500km fully loaded, with required fuel reserves)
Maximum speed: 230 knots
Because the Dash-7 can land on ice runways, it is a regular visitor to the field station at Sky-Blu. Thanks to its greater capacity over the Twin Otters, the Dash-7 has significantly reduced the number of flights required to ferry fuel and supplies.
The aircraft has modifications to allow surveying equipment to be fitted. This includes magnetometer pods on the wingtips enabling the aircraft to be used for aerial studies, remote sensing work or aerial surveying.