Australia has one major summer-only facility, Wilkins Aerodrome. It is located at 66° 41’ S 111° 31’ E, with an elevation of 720–780 metres, in Wilkes Land 70 kilometres from Australia’s Casey research station.
Wilkins Aerodrome is a seasonal station and intercontinental airfield. It opens in October every year and operates until March, with an approximately six week shutdown period for the ice runway at the height of summer due to ice melt. While Wilkins Aerodrome is open it sustains a permanent population of up to 8 construction and maintenance staff.
Wilkins Aerodrome is currently Australia’s only intercontinental aviation access point into East Antarctica, and one of few such access points across all of Antarctica. Wilkins Aerodrome was built in 2006 and since 2007 has supported 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 six seasonal flights per year with heavy-life C17-A aircraft to Wilkins Aerodrome in support of Australia’s Antarctic Program.
Intracontinental flights operate from Wilkins Aerodrome to ski landing areas which are established seasonally at all three Australian year-round research stations. These sites require on-site personnel and infrastructure to operate.
In addition, the Australian Antarctic Program supports other National Antarctic Programs and facilitates access to and from Antarctica. Intracontinental flights are also operated to the skiways of other National Antarctic Programs such as Italy, France and China.
Further information for those travelling to Antarctica can be found in our Aviation section.