Australia’s new air service to Antarctica is on track after completing its first landing on the new glacial runway this week.

The Airbus A319 landed on the purpose-built Wilkins Runway, around 70km from Casey station, late on Sunday night and returned to Hobart early on Monday, December 10.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Press, said that it was a very exciting time in Australia’s Antarctic history.

“It is a most ambitious undertaking which, for the first time, connects Australia and Antarctica with a permanent air link. It really is a tremendous achievement and marks a significant milestone for Australia’s Antarctic Program.

“Operational crews reported that the aircraft handled the conditions well and had nothing but praise for Wilkins Runway. It has been a wonderful reward, too, for the ground support personnel who have worked so hard in sometimes appalling conditions.”

The flight to Wilkins carried only operations personnel and was one of a series of successful ‘proving’ flights before final approval from authorities to allow passengers on board.

Dr Press said that passenger safety was paramount to a successful air link.

“Everything is on schedule as the air link nears final approvals.”

Regular operational flights to Antarctica will begin once regulatory approvals are completed over the next week or so.