|Aviation in Svalbard Part 2
While Part 1 of this account attempted to provide an overview of the pioneering events that secured Svalbard a place in aviation history, the challenges which confront present operators in the area are still significant.
The geographical and physical demands that are placed on machines and their operators, devoid of the normal support services found in more developed areas as a result of lack of demand and consequently funding, provide a continuation of much of the pioneering spirit of the past.
Coal mining continued to be the only significant industry in Svalbard after flying boats and airships had departed the scene in the 1930s and seaborne traffic sufficed to provide transport for both goods and personnel.
During WWII German Troops occupied Longyearbyen and visited the other small inhabited sites in Svalbard, destroying anything they believed significant. Nevertheless no strategic use seems have been found for the area and maritime deliveries of coal continued to the (occupied) Norwegian mainland.
The photograph below was found at the small museum in Longyearbyen.
A Luftwaffe Arado 232 appears to have come to grief when the starboard main undercarriage leg collapsed on landing on the tundra just outside Longyearbyen. The tripod in the foreground with a cable link to the aircraft poses a query. Also note the man crawling up to the port wingtip.
The post-war aviation “boom” seemed to avoid Svalbard and it was not until the late 1950s that the area experienced tentative steps to exploit the advantages that aerial transportation could provide.
The following provides a brief chronology of the slow development of aviation services:
16 February 1958 - a Norwegian Air Force Catalina amphibian landed on a strip which had been scraped in the level riverside tundra area at Aventdalen to collect a seriously ill person. It made the 14 hour return trip from Bodo. Note that this would have been during a period of total darkness.
The site of the original landing strip to the east of Longyearbyen, with the paved surface visible between the two front (contemporary) buildings. A windsock (unlikely to be original) may be seen in the right background.