First Hercules flight from Australia to our Antarctic ice runway

First Hercules flight from Australia to our Antarctic ice runway

Video transcript

An icy first for the Australian Antarctic Program.

Project Lead, Matt Filipowski; “It’s very exciting because it’s the first time that a RAAF C130J has operated to Antarctica and to the Wilkins Aerodrome.”

RAAF Commander Air Mobility Group Carl Newman; “Hercules are fantastic aircraft and can carry up to 20 tonnes of cargo. It can carry that cargo approximately 3000 nautical miles.”

The plane flew the 6,900 kilometre trip from Hobart in 13 hours. It was specially modified for this Antarctic mission.

Project Lead, Matt Filipowski; “Recently the Airforce has put external fuel tanks onto the aircraft and that’s given it increased endurance, or it can fly further and longer, which it needs to be able to do to operate to Antarctica.”

The Hercules had a crew of 8 on board for one of its longest ever flights.

RAAF Commander Air Mobility Group Carl Newman; “This is one of the most challenging environments for aviation in the world. The weather will be of great interest to the crew, the conditions of the runways, the ability to operate aircrafts on the ground in very cold temperatures.

Once on the ground at Wilkins they delivered cargo and refueled.

Project Lead, Matt Filipowski; “The Hercules primarily carried its own fuel down, but we had a small amount of cargo on there and they were also able to return a small amount cargo back to Australia for us as well.”

The Hercules is on track to provide another aerial support option for the Australian Antarctic Program

[end transcript]

Hercules C-130J crew and Wilkins Aerodrome staff
Hercules C-130J crew and Wilkins Aerodrome staff (Photo: Nick Watt)
Hercules C-130J on Wilkins RunwayHercules C-130J on Wilkins RunwayHercules C-130J on Wilkins RunwayHercules C-130J on Wilkins Runway

A newly modified Hercules aircraft has landed at Australia’s glacial runway, Wilkins Aerodrome, marking one of its longest ever flights.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130J was able to complete the 6,900 kilometre return flight from Hobart using two additional external fuel tanks fitted beneath the wings.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Mr Kim Ellis, said the flight south to the 3.5 kilometre ice runway took about 6.5 hours.

“The Hercules delivered 780 kilograms of cargo to Australia’s expeditioners at nearby Casey research station,” Mr Ellis said.

“This is another great capability the Australian Antarctic Program now has to reach our stations, deliver cargo and provide medical support to our people working in Antarctica.”

Wing Commander Dion Wright, Commander Australian Contingent for Operation Southern Discovery, said the flight was one of the longest-range missions undertaken by an Australian C-130J Hercules.

“The additional tanks increased the Hercules’ fuel capacity from 19 to 27 tonnes, giving us the flying range to support missions such as this,” Wing Commander Wright said.

The plane carried extra fuel with it and the crew refuelled once on the ground at Wilkins.

“Using the C-130J provides additional capacity for the RAAF to support the Australian Antarctic Division than by relying on the C-17A Globemaster alone.”

The Australian Antarctic Program already uses Defence’s C-17A Globemaster for cargo operations, with six flights scheduled over this summer season.

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