Perched near the top of the world, hundreds of miles north of the arctic circle, is Barrow Alaska. Also known as Utqiagvik, it is the northernmost town in the United States. Residents do not see sunlight from november until january and in the summer, the sun never fully sets from may until july. Located in the North Slope borough, this sleepy town has quietly grown in fame over the past decades. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
There are no paved highways connecting Barrow to the outside world. Only aircraft, ships and ice roads can transport people and supplies in and out. So, it may seem surprising that a town this remote can garner such global attention, but countless articles and documentaries showcase its impressive wildlife – including seals, whales, polar bears and reindeer, sometimes seen roaming the town freely. Barrow is also considered to be ground zero for climate change research and a popular destination for eco-travellers wanting to catch a glimpse of the polar culture. Through the years, Barrow has been the plot of several major motion pictures, e.g. “30 Days of Night” or “Big Miracle”. But now, Barrow has a new star in town, one so bright that not even Hollywood can outshine it: the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet.
The PC-24 on medevac missions
The PC-24 thrives in the exceptionally harsh conditions of Utqiagvik. The North Slope Borough Department of Search and Rescue uses the new Super Versatile Jet to provide a safe, efficient, reliable airborne response for aeromedical evacuation assignments, search and rescue, and other emergencies. The aircraft is a vital community resource for 9,800 residents spread across a territory of 95,000 square miles (246,000 square kilometres). Outfitted with two tandem stretchers and five passenger seats, it is the fourth PC-24 to be delivered in a medevac configuration.
April D. Brooks, Director of the North Slope Borough Search and Rescue Department, was kind enough to explain why the organisation opted for this aircraft: “The PC-24 is a very important addition to our operations because it can land in every community, even in the most adverse weather conditions. It can fly to any city outside Barrow and land on gravel runways, for example. Plus, the short field landing and take-off capabilities are a major advantage in that they allow us to reach people in the remotest of regions, to provide help and even save lives.”
Snow, short runways and icy tempratures
The rescue team faces many challenges on a daily basis: harsh flying weather, severe temperatures and maintaining currency and proficiency across a diverse fleet. One recent flight took them to a village runway of compact snow and –22° Fahrenheit (–30° Celsius) outside: the PC-24 had no problem landing and stopping over a very short distance. It made a big impression on the team and boosted their confidence about performance on a variety of surfaces – whether snow, gravel or grass.
The North Slope team thinks the most appealing attributes of the PC-24 are its versatility, ease of use and comfortable flying characteristics. The team also operates two helicopters and a fixed wing turboprop. The PC-24 replaces an older light jet. “The PC-24 has to be one of the most intuitive aircraft I’ve ever flown, with capabilities far in excess of those of its predecessor,” commented the pilot.
The North Slope Borough Department of Search and Rescue will have many more adventures to write about for years to come. Perhaps some material may even be fitting for a Hollywood script! For now, however, the team members simply wanted to convey their appreciation to the employees at Pilatus. From April D. Brooks directly: “I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for the support and professionalism we have received at every level of the Pilatus team. We look forward to being ambassadors for your company and product as we begin operations in a region which will surely generate great interest within our global industry.”