Airborne in Antarctica

A319 at Troll
The A319 flew three missions to the Norwegian research station, Troll, from Cape Town in South Africa. (Photo: Sven Lidstrom)
Helicopters on C-17AChinese Basler at MawsonLC130

3rd February 2017

Australia’s aviation assets are airborne across the icy continent in support of a huge array of science and operational projects this summer.

For the first time, two B3 squirrel helicopters were used to support key science projects out of Casey research station, such as research into the Totten glacier.

The Australian Antarctic Division has flown seven missions to Wilkins Aerodrome in the Airbus 319 (A319) and five in the C-17A Globemaster III, including one deep-field airdrop. Six flights to Wilkins remain this season.

A Basler, Twin Otter and US LC130 are transporting people and cargo between Australia’s three continental research stations: Mawson, Davis and Casey.

Australian Antarctic Division Operations Manager, Robb Clifton, said air support is critical to the success of the Australian Antarctic Program.

“The isolated nature and size of Antarctica make it extremely challenging to transport people to and from the continent, between stations and out into the field,” Mr Clifton said.

“The use of planes and helicopters offers greater flexibility, but of course the extreme Antarctic weather means we have to be highly flexible when it comes to flying.”

This summer, the A319 has also been used to fly expeditioners of other national Antarctic programs, including the Norwegians, Chinese, French, Italians and Americans.

“The A319 has recently returned from Cape Town in South Africa from where it completed three missions to the Norwegian research station Troll, located in Queen Maud Land.

“Due to the nature of the blue ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, the Division doesn’t schedule flights for the A319 in January, which makes it available for other Antarctic programs to make use of.”

Mr Clifton said nations operating in Antarctica regularly provided logistical support to one another.