Two Daher TBMs—an 850 and 930—completed a milestone journey across Antarctica and over the magnetic South Pole earlier this month. Both flights qualify as first legs in the rarely awarded Polar Diamond Circumnavigator Diploma, recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
The aircraft flew 2,700 nm from Santiago, Chile, to 75 degrees South, the latitude required for the Polar Diamond Circumnavigator Diploma. The trips, conducted in an environment that averages -56 degrees F with constant winds, required three stopovers and considerable preparation. The five-million-sq-mile ice-covered continent is largely uninhabited with high ground in the center that rises to more than 8,000 feet, with peaks reaching 16,050 feet.
The aircraft departed Punta Arenas in Chile on January 1, reaching Teniente Rodolfo Marsh Martin Airport on King George Island, which is part of Chile's Antarctica commune and the northernmost airport on the continent. The airport has a 4,232-foot (1,290-meter) gravel runway.
The next day, the aircraft flew 807 nm southwest to the British Antarctic Survey Sky-Blu base. The aircraft then reached the 75 degrees South latitude turning point before heading back to King George Island’s airport.
Sebastian Diaz from Santiago, Chile, flew the TBM 850 with his 88-year-old father, Patricio (who Daher says is one of the oldest licensed TBM pilots) and his son, Sebastian Jr. Meanwhile, Dierk Reuter of Chicago flew the TBM 930 with his son Alex. The 930 carried cameras and an in-flight tracking system with Iridium GO! satellite connectivity, with the pilots using Iridium messaging to post photos on Instagram during the journey. The TBM 930 owner, Jim Baum, arranged a fly-by of the ice-class exploration ship National Geographic Orion, providing for further pictures and video.
Diaz noted a key challenge of the trip involved avoiding the freezing of the fuel because of the extreme low temperatures. The pilots used more of the Prist fuel system icing inhibitor than usual to ward off the freezing, he said. Diaz also praised the Chilean Air Force for the hospitality provided during the trip.
“The journey from my hometown Chicago to 75S 71W and back can be summarized in figures: 18,782 nm, 64 hours, 3,080 gallons of jet fuel, and 19 stopovers,” Reuter said. “But it doesn’t tell the story about a pilot’s feeling to fly over the South Pole. The TBM is an awesome aircraft to explore the globe!”
"We are impressed by the airmanship of such TBM owner-pilots as the Diaz family and Dierk Reuter, who carefully prepared this dual polar expedition,” said Nicolas Chabbert, senior v-p of Daher's airplane business unit. “We salute the confidence they have in our TBM turboprop, as they had to face extreme weather conditions flying over one of the world’s most hostile regions.”