The next stage in the development of Australia’s proposed air transport link with Antarctica is underway with a workshop at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) at Kingston, near Hobart.
The workshop, to determine key technical and regulatory matters for the project, is being attended by an expert in snow and ice runway construction, from the Cold Region Research and Experimentation Laboratory in the United States.
Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic said that the project had reached an exciting milestone.
“We are now refining this proposal with the aim of construction trials this summer, and completion in the summer of 2003–04,” Dr Stone said.
“The workshop will be highly valuable in progressing this important project that offers many new opportunities for Australia’s Antarctic program.''
AAD Project Manager Charlton Clark said “The construction and ongoing maintenance of this Antarctic runway requires careful and detailed planning. This workshop brings together most of the technical and regulatory expertise to make it a success.”
Other attendees at the workshop include representatives of the preferred supplier for the Air Link project, Skytraders, the Bureau of Meteorology and project engineers from the AAD.
The two-day workshop follows on from recent productive meetings with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Air transport to Antarctica for Australian scientists would revolutionise travel to the icy continent and enable much greater flexibility for the Australian research program.
Up to 25 flights each summer are planned between Hobart and a hard glacier runway near Casey station from 2003–‘04 in a 16-seat Falcon wide body passenger jet. Sydney-based company Skytraders has been selected by the Commonwealth as the preferred supplier.
Personnel bound for other Antarctic destinations would change at Casey to a ski-equipped CASA 212 aircraft for flights to other Antarctic stations and remote destinations.
Rather than long haul sea voyages to Antarctica, the jet flights would enable direct return flights between Hobart and Casey, reducing the need for refuelling in Antarctica. This would in turn minimise the risk of fuel spills and the need to transport and store aircraft fuel on the continent.
The planned air service also offers a high level of passenger safety as the long range jet is capable of return flights to Australia without landing in the event of inclement weather at the landing site in Antarctica.