Davis aerodrome project

Rocky hills at the site of the new runway.
The site of the new runway near Australia's Davis research station. (Photo: Andrew Garner)
A map showing the location of the paved runway.A field camp near the runway site.Scientist sitting on ice-covered rocks with a laptop to monitor seismic tests.Aerial of Davis research station.Australia's Airbus at Wilkins Aerodrome.

The Australian Government intends to construct a paved runway near Davis research station, subject to environmental approvals.

The new runway, with the capability to operate year round, will complement Australia’s summer-only Antarctic airlink to the ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, inland from Casey research station.

A second inter-continental airlink will increase the scale and efficiency of Australia’s Antarctic Program, providing unprecedented access to the continent and enhancing our ability to undertake world class scientific research.

Runway site

After three field seasons of geotechnical and environmental investigations the Australian Antarctic Division has identified a suitable site for the runway in the Vestfold Hills region of East Antarctica, approximately six kilometres from Davis research station.

The runway will be almost 5000 kilometres from Hobart, with a flight time of around six hours, and 1400 kilometres from Australia’s first intercontinental ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, near Casey research station. The length of the runway will be 2700 metres, based on the length required by large commercial aircraft.

The runway will provide greater access to Davis research station and surrounding regions. The station is currently only accessible during the Austral summer by icebreaker or internal flights using small aircraft.

Year-round access to Antarctica

The new runway at Davis will provide more reliable access to Antarctica throughout the year.

Currently, access to Antarctica in winter is difficult, with temperatures dropping to −40°C at Davis research station.

While the operating model for the new airlink is still to be determined, it is expected that the normal flying season over the Austral summer will be extended, with the capability to access Davis research station outside this period.

The new runway will enhance Hobart’s role as the premier gateway to East Antarctica and may attract more Antarctic nations to base their operations in Tasmania.

Environmental considerations

As a leader in Antarctica, Australia is committed to best practice environmental stewardship.

The project will be subject to extensive environmental and other government approval processes. These assessments will be transparent, consultative and rigorous, including to meet the requirements of the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

A new era of Antarctic endeavour

The runway is part of the Government’s commitment to a new era of Antarctic endeavour and will integrate with the new state-of-the-art icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, an expanding overland traverse capability, replacement station on Macquarie Island and new Antarctic science funding announced in the recent budget.

These are key components of the Government’s Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan released in April 2016 to bring Australia’s Antarctic presence and science into the next generation.

Together the measures equip Australia to be a partner of choice in East Antarctica and foster greater collaboration among Antarctic nations to tackle some of the big scientific questions facing the world today.

Next steps

A detailed business case is being prepared for Government. Construction will begin subject to a project schedule being developed through the detailed business case and environmental and government approvals.

Download the Davis runway fact sheet [PDF]