The Australian Antarctic Division and Royal Australian Air Force have completed a series of five proof of concept flights to Wilkins Aerodrome in East Antarctica, with the final flight returning to Hobart early this morning.
The C-17A is the largest aircraft to have landed on the blue ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome and its use this season has provided an important boost to Australia’s mission in Antarctica.
Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt MP, said the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) were to be congratulated on the successful missions.
“The collaborative approach to these proof of concept flights by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Royal Australian Air Force is to be commended,” Minister Hunt said.
“Previously heavy-lift cargo has had to rely on the Aurora Australis, which usually visits each of Australia’s Antarctic stations just once every summer season.”
“The C-17A was able to transport more than 109 tonnes of cargo and machinery between Hobart and Wilkins Aerodrome across the five flights, boosting the scientific and logistical capability of the Australia’s Antarctic programme.”
Minister for Defence Senator the Hon Marise Payne said the concept flights were an opportunity to test the C-17A in challenging conditions.
“These flights allowed the RAAF and AAD to trial the capability and assess the utility of C-17A flights to the Wilkins ice runway,” Minister Payne said.
“The aircraft’s ability to lift up to 70 tonnes of cargo and land on short, semi prepared runways made it well suited to the task.’’
Each flight departed Hobart, flying 3450 km south (approx. 4.5 hours) to Wilkins Aerodrome, which is located approximately 70kms south east of Casey Station in East Antarctica.
Results from the series of flights will now be considered by the AAD and the RAAF.
“I congratulate all involved in these very successful Antarctic flights,” Minister Payne said.