This Day in Aviation History

October 31, 1956
A US Navy R4D Skytrain is the first aircraft to land at the South Pole.

The TIME magazine article describes the takeoff thus: “Then, with frostbite already showing on [RADM] Dufek’s nose, the party stomped back into the airplane, its engines still turning over. But when Pilot Conrad Shinn gunned his engines and fired four JATO (jet assist) bottles for takeoff, the R4D stuck fast, its skis frozen to the icy surface. Only by blasting off his eleven remaining JATO bottles did Shinn wrench the plane loose and stagger into the thin air at well below normal takeoff speed.” Also according to RADM Dufek’s book, the R4D carried 15 and Gus fired 4 at a time, then the last 3 before he got off deck.

Many journalists wanted to go on the flight, but given the extreme hazards (no one had ever done it before) none were allowed. Some of them accompanied the mission aboard a wheeled USAF C-124 Globemaster which flew overhead but of course did not land. Others flew in on a Navy Skymaster which developed engine trouble over the Plateau and had to turn back. Many of these folks gave their cameras to the Gus Shinn and his crew, hence the following pictures, courtesy of Billy Ace Baker…

There is also a couple of photos on this webpage that may be of interest.

Wikpedia, Operation Deep Freeze:

Wikipedia, Douglas C-47 Skytrain:

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