Built in 2006, Wilkins Aerodrome is a seasonal station and intercontinental airfield. It opens in October every year and operates until March. At the height of summer, the ice runway shuts down for around 6 weeks due to ice melt.
While the aerodrome is open, a small group of construction and maintenance staff stay on site.
Wilkins Aerodrome is currently Australia’s only intercontinental aviation access point into East Antarctica. It is one of few such access points across all of Antarctica.
The runway itself is about 3 km long and located on an area of ice about 500 m thick. Located nearly 800 m above sea level atop the Peterson Glacier, the runway shifts about 12 m each year with the movement of the glacier and needs to be regularly realigned.
Wilkins Aerodrome supports personnel transfer for the Australian Antarctic Program with A319 flights. The Airbus A319‑115LR is a commercial aircraft operated by Skytraders Pty Ltd from Hobart to Wilkins Aerodrome under contract to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Around half of the 500 people Australia takes south each season, are taken on these flights.
Since 2016, the Department of Defence has operated up to 6 seasonal flights per year with heavy-lift C17-A aircraft to Wilkins Aerodrome in support of Australia’s Antarctic Program.
Intracontinental flights operate from Wilkins Aerodrome to ski landing areas that are established seasonally at all 3 Australian year-round research stations. These sites require on-site personnel and infrastructure to operate.
The Australian Antarctic Program also supports other National Antarctic Programs and facilitates access to and from Antarctica. Intracontinental flights are operated to the skiways of other National Antarctic Programs such as Italy, France and China.