Airdrop ensures Australia's Antarctic runway opened on schedule

The RAAF C-17A drops spare parts for snow blowers near Casey research station.
The RAAF C-17A drops spare parts for snow blowers near Casey research station. (Photo: Dominic Hall)

An airdrop of mechanical equipment to Casey research station in September, ensured Australia’s Antarctic runway opened in time for summer operations.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster III dropped 600 kg of parts to the station, for two Wilkins Aerodrome snow blowers.

Australian Antarctic Division Operations Manager, Robb Clifton, said the snow blowers were essential for preparing the glacial runway surface.

“The blowers are used to remove the snow that builds up over winter,” Mr Clifton said.

“Unfortunately, both blowers had separate mechanical issues and we had to source replacement parts from Germany and Norway.

“The airdrop ensured our intercontinental flights could start as scheduled at the end of October.”

It took the C-17A about 10 hours to make the 7000 km return trip from Hobart to Casey station. The snow blowers were repaired on station and driven the 70 km inland to Wilkins Aerodrome.

The RAAF has been supporting the Australian Antarctic Program through Operation Southern Discovery since 2016.

Nisha Harris