The Australian Government today announced the acquisition of an Airbus A319 for use on the $46.3 million Australian Government Antarctic Air Service.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the announcement marked an exciting step forward for Australia’s research and exploration effort in Antarctica.

The Air Service is expected to commence flights between Australia and Antarctica in early 2007.

“The Airbus will help secure Australia’s position as a world leader in Antarctic capabilities and research,” Senator Campbell said.

“It will modernise our support for Australia’s Antarctic programme and allow researchers to travel between the two continents much quicker.”

“It will reduce the time it takes to travel from Australia to Wilkins runway in Antarctica from 10 days to 4 hours.”

“At the moment, researchers, scientists, technicians and field assistants spend their time cooped up on a ship. The Airbus will mean expeditioners can get there quickly and spend more time on the ice for research.”

Senator Campbell said ships would continue to be used for marine science, transporting some passengers and resupplying stations.

“We estimate 10 to 20 flights of the Air Service will be conducted each summer once the system is operational,” Senator Campbell said.

“The intercontinental capability of the A319 will complement the current fleet of Antarctic-based helicopters and C212-400s which now fly personnel to field locations and between Australia’s stations within Antarctica.

“The A319 is scheduled to make its delivery flight to Australia in late January 2007 with its inaugural flight to the new Wilkins runway expected in early February 2007. The Air Service is expected to be fully operational for the 2007–08 Antarctic season.”

The A319 will be leased and operated by Skytraders Pty Ltd of Sydney. The initial lease period for the Airbus will be for five years beginning in late January 2007.

Construction of a snow-capped ice runway began in December 2005 and will continue during the 2006/07 summer season.

The aircraft will operate between Hobart and Wilkins Runway, 70km inland from Australia’s Casey station.

Airbus A319 facts

  • Modern twin engine aircraft
  • Range 6500 nautical miles providing the ability to fly Hobart – Antarctica and return without refuelling
  • Flexible configuration for the transport of a combination of passengers and high priority cargo
  • Passenger numbers depends on requirement of the Programme – initially 19 with a capacity of 40
  • Stowed luggage 50kg and carry on 5kg per passenger
  • Aircraft dimensions:
    • Overall length: 33.83m
    • Height: 11.76m
    • Fuselage diameter: 3.95m
    • Max cabin width: 3.70m
    • Cabin length: 23.78m
    • Wingspan: 34.10m