Named after the legendary patron and pioneer of early Antarctic aviation, Sir Hubert Wilkins, the Wilkins Aerodrome is located approximately 70 km south east of Casey and serves as the Antarctic terminal for the intercontinental air service.
Situated in an area of Antarctica known as Wilkes’ Land, the aerodrome has been sited 700 meters above sea level to minimise the likelihood of melt as the coast is relatively warm by Antarctic standards during the summer months.
Wilkins Aerodrome operates as a ‘Certified Aerodrome’ under the approval of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). In order for this to occur the runway had to comply with international requirements for runway characteristics, condition reporting, operating procedures and quality systems.
Wilkins is significantly different from other aerodromes that have been approved by the Australian regulator and both the AAD and CASA worked closely together in developing the site. Due to the dynamic nature of the runway, a series of tests will be conducted on the pavement immediately prior to any use by aircraft to ensure that prescribed hardness, friction and density requirements are met.
Demonstration flights to the Wilkins Aerodrome occurred during the austral summer of 2006–07 and regular passenger flights commenced during this 2007–08 season. The facility operates between October and March each year.
- Location: 66°41′27″ S, 111°31′35″ E
- Dimensions: 3500 m × 100 m
- Visual aids: PAPI, and end lighting threshold, lead in and edge markers
- Distance from Casey: 70 km
- Elevation: 720–780 m ASL
- Center line slope: 1.58%
- Cross slope: <0.1%
- Glacial movement: 12 m/year to South West
- Ice thickness: approx 500 m
- Mean temperature: −14°C
Wilkins Aerodrome operates as a certified aerodrome in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority regulations. Like aerodromes in Australia, it has a range of navigation aids and communication systems to ensure safe operations.
Infrastructure at Wilkins include:
- Transit facilities
- Cold and warm storage
- Emergency response facilities, including medical
- Airfield markers
- Navigation and aircraft approach equipment
- Power generation equipment
- Fire fighting equipment
- Shelters for:
- aircraft communications site office
- medical services
- meteorological services
- living and emergency accommodation
- light workshop
- storage facilities
- Vehicle and sled parking areas
- Refuelling equipment
- Fuel storage for vehicle and airfield operations
Living at Wilkins
Living in this environment requires all team members to complete a wide range of additional duties that are essential to maintaining the Wilkins accommodation and facilities. Austere weather conditions at the site make it difficult for a daily routine to become established. Generally, there are periods of blizzards (high winds) when little work can be completed which are punctuated with windows of fine weather when most productive work is undertaken.
During fine weather long work days, sometimes up to 12 hours, can be expected.