Lockheed Constellation ‘Pegasus’ crash landed onto the icy fields of Antarctica on October 8, 1970.

The ill-fated flight had run into a storm and was forced to crash land in impossible weather conditions.

Where the aircraft dramatically slid to a halt nearly 35 years ago is the exact same position it lies today, now half-buried in snow.

Pegasus shortly after the accident

The Accident

Before the departure from Christchurch, the crew was informed that weather conditions at McMurdo Sound station were favourable. Unfortunately, these conditions deteriorated in flight and upon arrival, the crew was unable to locate the runway.

The visibility was zero due to the blowing snow, causing white out conditions. Instead of returning to Christchurch, the captain decided to make a go-around and during a second attempt to land, he misjudged his altitude.

The crashed aircraft showing the distribution of the wreckage

The right main gear struck a snowbank and was torn off. The aircraft then ricochetted up from the impact, and it‘s right wing dug into the snow and was torn off. As the aircraft slid in its death throes, parts and debris were flung everywhere, eventually spinning around 270 degrees before coming to a rest. (See above picture of the debris field). Fortunately the fuselage stayed intact, and no fire erupted.

Amazingly all 80 occupants survived and were later rescued, but the aircraft was completely destroyed.

Pegasus in her former glory

Date of Accident: Oct 8, 1970 at 2010 LT

Type of Aircraft: Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation  

Registration: 131644

Flight Phase: Landing (Descent and approach)

Flight Type: Military

Crash Site: Less than 10km from airport 

Schedule: Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Sound, Antartica

MSN: 4145

Year of Manufacture: 1953

Location: Mc Murdo Sound, Antartica

Crew on board: 12

Pax on board: 68

Survivors: Yes

Present day

Throughout the years, many have visited the crash site, and end up taking hundreds of pictures. These then end up on social media and many aviation enthusiasts then ask why the aircraft cannot be salvaged. The pictures show the aircraft looks complete and in very good condition and thus potentially salvageable. But looks are deceiving, and the snow and ice hide the massive damage sustained from the crash.

If you look carefully at some of the pictures available, you will see that the fuselage is slightly twisted towards the tail. The sad fact is that Pegasus will remain in Antarctica forever, never to return home. The other unfortunate fact is that through the years, souvenier hunters are slowly stripping the aircraft, even breaking holes in the fuslage to get inside.

The crash inspired researchers to rename the ice runway and airfield after the wrecked aircraft. However, Pegasus Field closed in December 2014 due to excess summer snow melt.

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