Airdrop ensures Australia's Antarctic runway opens on schedule

Expeditioners at Australia’s Casey research station preparing for C-17A Globemaster III airdrop
Expeditioners at Australia’s Casey research station preparing for C-17A Globemaster III airdrop (Photo: Dominic Hall)
C-17A Globemaster III commences airdrop near Australia’s Casey research stationCargo is parachuted from back of C-17A Globemaster IIICasey research station expeditioners collect the cargo from the airdropCasey research Station Leader, Rebecca Jeffcoat packing up the parachute from the airdropCasey research station expeditioners load the cargo from the airdrop onto a tracked

An airdrop of essential mechanical equipment will ensure Australia’s Antarctic runway opens in time for summer operations.

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III dropped 600 kilograms of snow blower parts to Australia’s Casey research station yesterday.

Australian Army personnel from 176th Air Dispatch Squadron supported the preparation of the parachutes and loading of the equipment onto the C-17A.

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

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

“Unfortunately for the team opening the runway both blowers have had separate mechanical issues and we’ve had to source replacement parts from Germany and Norway.

“The airdrop yesterday ensures our intercontinental flights can start as scheduled at the end of October.”

It took the C-17A about 10 hours to make the 7000 kilometre return trip from Hobart to Casey station.

RAAF Pilot Flight Lieutenant James Tockuss said the cargo was dropped onto the plateau, about 10 kilometres behind station.

“We descended to about 300 metres above the ice, and opened up the back of the Globemaster to deploy the equipment by parachute,” Flight Lieutenant Tockuss said.

“Luckily the weather was perfect, with blue skies, light winds and the temperature hovering around minus 20 degrees Celsius ensuring we hit the target landing site.”

The snow blowers will be repaired on station before being driven the 70 kilometres inland to Wilkins Aerodrome.

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

Casey Airdrop

Video transcript

Robb Clifton - Operations Manager

So yesterday we used a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster to do an airdrop of needed parts into Casey station which will assist us get the runway at Wilkins, which is about 70 kilometres from Casey, open to start the summer season.

The parts that we've dropped in are to repair a snow blower and this snow blower is needed to clear the runway in order to land the first flight.

The airdrop capability is a fantastic capability for the Australian Antarctic Program. It means we can get cargo and much-needed materials into our stations without going through the effort of preparing a full runway for an airplane to land on, so for us it's a real game-changer.

[end transcript]