ABOARD XUELONG, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese helicopter Xueying (Snow Eagle) on board the icebreaker Xuelong has been prepared for the airlift of trapped passengers on a Russian vessel stuck in sea ice off Antarctica, Xueying captain Jia Shuliang told Xinhua on Wednesday.
"The crew members have been readied to transport the 52 scientists and tourists aboard MV Akademik Shokalskiy with their luggage to Xuelong in groups of 12," Jia said.
According to the rescue plan, six crew members will be split into three two-person teams, respectively responsible for flying the helicopter and guaranteeing the ground service on board Xuelong and on the icy landing surface, Jia said.
"The first flight will transport all 12 staff of the emergency relief working group to the planned landing area to investigate thickness of the ice and pave planks to prevent possible sinking or rollovering," Jia told Xinhua.
Xuelong, which left Shanghai in early November on China's 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica, has established an emergency relief working group after the Russian ship's captain sent a formal request on Tuesday for chopper rescue.
The whole rescue, through five or six flights, should take three to four hours if weather conditions permit, Jia said, adding, "We must be patient and wait til the adverse weather improves, as poor visibility could lead to tragedy under the current condition of limited navigation and weather forecast."
He also pointed out that a landing on ice could be affected by many environmental factors, including the thickness of ice and snow in the landing area.
The powerful Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which is approaching slowly due to the poor weather, will use its barge to take aboard all the passengers from Xuelong afterwards.
Xueying helicopter, which started its service in the Chinese scientific expedition in the Antarctica on Nov. 6, 2013, is a large KA 32 helicopter aboard ship, and is capable of wind resistance under 10 meters per second.