When our Director of Engineering, Tony Abfalter, shared with me his desire to take a temporary hiatus from his normal work duties at Leighton Broadcasting to join the U.S. Antarctic Program, part of the National Science Foundation team in Antarctica as their Sr. Communications Technician, I’ll admit I flinched for a moment. As a radio group in six markets, we rely on Tony and considered the consequences of his absence. Ultimately, I knew the right thing to do was to support Tony in his desire to take advantage of this opportunity.
McMurdo station, officially established in 1955, is located at 77 degrees 51 minutes South and 166 degrees 40 minutes East, and is the largest Antarctic station. The site itself is located on Ross Island and is the southernmost point accessible by ship during the artic summer. The location features a harbor, landing strip, about 85 buildings and helicopter pad and serves as a logistics hub for the US Antarctic program.
While on location, Tony will be responsible to troubleshoot and maintain all aspects of wired and wireless communications. He will be using his deep knowledge of Microwave, UHF and VHF technologies, programming and maintaining radio gear which connects researchers and technicians in the field to the main base, as well as holding responsibility for station communications outward to the rest of the world. Being a radio engineer for Leighton Broadcasting has exposed Abfalter to many of the skillsets he will be using on this extended engagement such as working with high power communications systems including wired and wireless technologies. In addition to his technical skills, Abfalter, a St. Cloud Minnesota native, has extensive cold weather survival experience combined with EMR/SAR training as a member of the Holdingford Fire Department.
Abfalter will be leaving his current role as Director of Engineering for Leighton Broadcasting on February 1, 2022 to quarantine in Seattle for five days. Following this initial quarantine, he will travel to New Zealand via military aircraft for an additional quarantine. Once that is complete, he will be headed to Antarctica for an approximate nine-month engagement. As for Leighton Broadcasting’s needs, upon accepting his request, I asked Tony to create a plan for IT and engineering support while he would be gone. We’ll be using a local company, NetVPro to handle all IT issues and a variety of contract engineers near our various markets.
Please join me in wishing Tony the best as he aims to share his broadcast engineering talent with Antarctic outpost McMurdo Station. If you wish to follow along on Tony’s journey, follow Leighton Broadcasting’s LinkedIn where we plan to post updates, as received from, while he’s away. While we cheer Tony on in this new adventure we also look forward to his return to Leighton Broadcasting, in November of 2022.