Antarctic airlink update

19 July 2004

Australia's first Antarctic intra-continental Antarctic airlink is on track to commence flying in November this year.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Antarctica said the first of two specially modified CASA 212-400s had successfully completed trial flights in Spain and was currently undergoing modification in Canada having specially-built skis fitted.

"The two CASAs will be fitted with skis specially designed in Canada so that they will be able to land on ice and snow in Antarctica," Dr Stone said.

"This is the first time the CASA 212 have been fitted with skis. The distinctive design demonstrates the planning that has gone into ensuring that these aircraft provide logistic support for Australia's Antarctic program and will enable scientists to carry out important research throughout Antarctica.

"While the first CASA is in Canada having the skis fitted, the second aircraft is finishing test flights in Seville, Spain. On completion both aircraft will fly to Australia prior to their first official Antarctic trip in November this year.

"Before leaving for Australia, the CASA 212 that's currently in Spain will be on display at the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) annual meeting in Bremen in Germany on 30 July."

Dr Stone said that the aircraft would be used in Antarctica to ferry personnel and equipment between Australia's three Antarctic continental stations – Mawson, Davis and Casey. A new runway was being groomed near Casey station in preparation for the start of the intra-continental link later this year. The first leg of the flights will begin from Hobart in Tasmania.

Aircraft details:

CASA - a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS) makers of Ariane, Airbus and Eurocopter.

CASA 212-400:

  • is the latest light-transport aircraft to be produced by EADS.
  • has a twin turbo-prop featuring digital cockpit to reduce pilot fatigue.
  • has comprehensive communication and navigation suite to make flying in Antarctica little different from flying with Australia.
  • has the latest advancements in engine technology; has performance and reliability never seen before in an aircraft of this size and brings new levels of safety to Antarctic operations.
  • will operate within the regulatory requirements of commercial transport category operators, unlike the majority of Antarctic aviation, which operates under military control or as charter aircraft.