'Terra' on the icy highway

Grey cargo plane with a red bus coming out the back
The bus was flown to Antarctica in the back of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A. (Photo: Paul Endersby)
Large types reaching 1.5m in height covered in netting on iceLarge bus in the back of a cargo planeRed bus being loaded onto the back of a planeA plane with the back cargo door open and a tractor pulling out a red bus

Antarctica’s newest arrival has touched down on the icy continent in style, with a brand new 'Terra Bus' flying in to Wilkins Aerodrome in the back of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A.

The bus was loaded onto the C-17A at the RAAF Base in Richmond in New South Wales. The plane departed from Avalon Airport in Victoria for the four thousand kilometre flight south to Antarctica. 

The bus will be used to transport expeditioners from Wilkins Aerodrome to Casey research station, 70km away on the coast.

Australian Antarctic Division Senior Logistics Officer Paul Endersby said the whole operation ran smoothly.

“Even though the RAAF plane is huge, it was still a tight fit to get the 22 tonne bus inside,” Mr Endersby said.

“Thanks to the professionalism of the engineers and loadmasters of the Air Mobility Training and Development Unit, we were able to deliver the bus to Antarctica in just a few hours, rather than taking several weeks on Australia’s icebreaker Aurora Australis.”

Six all terrain balloon tyres weighing half a tonne each and measuring 1.5m high also flew south on the C-17A.

“A blizzard came in as we left Wilkins Aerodrome so the mechanics will wait for the weather to clear before they fit the tyres,” Mr Endersby said.

“Then the bus can hit the icy highway and head to its new home at Casey station.”

The bus has been designed to withstand the conditions on the windiest, coldest, driest continent on earth.

The $1.2 million vehicle can carry 36 expeditioners, 17 more than the current bus can transport.

The bus replaces ‘Priscilla’ which has been in service since Wilkins Aerodrome first opened in 2008.