Australia’s Antarctic science support aircraft have arrived on the frozen continent in preparation for the upcoming research season in Antarctica.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said Gadget and Ginger — named after two of Douglas Mawson’s huskies — left Hobart mid-morning yesterday and arrived at Australia’s Casey station last night, around 12 hours later.

“It was a very successful flight with weather conditions just right,” Senator Campbell said.

“There is a broad range of research projects being undertaken this season and the CASA aircraft will have a busy schedule ferrying personnel between stations and deploying scientists and equipment to field locations.

“Australia’s Antarctic activities have relied on ships for intercontinental travel since Mawson’s voyage so the flights by Ginger and Gadget are truly historic, as is the introduction of the new intercontinental airlink.

“The new airlink marks the opening of an important new chapter in the history of Australia’s world leading Antarctic programme.

“The CASAs are a forerunner to the introduction of Australia’s intercontinental aircraft announced in this year’s budget. The new airlink will receive $46.3 million funding over the next four years and provide Australia with more comprehensive transport support for its Antarctic programme than ever before,” he said.

Senator Campbell said if Australia was to remain at the forefront of Antarctic research we must provide the means to work smarter and better.

He said some site trials for the runway to support the intercontinental service have already been undertaken near Casey station with further work to be done this year.

Trial flights of a long-range jet are proposed in the 2006–2007 summer before the full service in 2007–2008.

Gadget and Ginger will return to Hobart in late February.

Aircraft details: CASA - a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS) makers of Ariane, Airbus and Eurocopter

CASA 212–400:the latest light-transport aircraft to be produced by EADStwin turbo-prop featuring digital cockpit to reduce pilot workloadcomprehensive communication and navigation suiteEquipped with the latest generation turbine engines, it can move larger payloads over longer distances with a fuel efficiency that now allows non-stop flights between all Australian stations

OPERATORS - Sydney-based Skytraders Pty Ltd have operated the aircraft for the AAD since the signing of a 12-year contract in June 2003