Supplying stations in East Antarctica is a long and costly affair due to the vastness and the distances. Most of the time, stations receive their supplies via ship, which is less expensive but more time consuming. To change this, the Royal Australian Air Force has successfully flown the final flight into East Antarctica in a series of proof of concept flights by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in support of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

The C-17A offers a heavy lift cargo capability, previously only available via ship. (Photo: Justin Hallock)
The C-17A offers a heavy lift cargo capability, previously only available via ship. (Photo: Justin Hallock)

Since November 2015, the C-17A Globemaster III has touched down in Antarctica at Wilkins Aerodrome five times, delivering heavy lift cargo in support of the Australian Antarctic programme. Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Nick Gales, said the five proof of concept flights have demonstrated their ability to improve the logistic and scientific capability of Australia’s Antarctic programme. “The collaboration between the Australian Antarctic Division and the Royal Australian Air Force has showcased and further developed the specialist skills of both organisations, with tangible benefits to Australia’s Antarctic programme.

More than 100 tonnes of cargo and machinery were transported to and from Wilkins Aerodrome (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)
More than 100 tonnes of cargo and machinery were transported to and from Wilkins Aerodrome (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)

”We were able to deliver a range of critical equipment to and from Antarctica on the C-17A, including a 23 tonne tractor flown from Wilkins to Hobart for repairs with a turnaround of just over two months, compared to two years via ship. Another piece of machinery was taken south just four weeks after it returned to Australia for repairs on the Aurora Australis.

“That the flights to and from Wilkins Aerodrome flew return from Hobart Airport further demonstrates Tasmania’s status as a leading gateway to Antarctica.” Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Joe Iervasi, said the flights have been a huge success. “I am proud of the crews that have been involved in this collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division,” Air Commodore Iervasi said.

the C-17A Globemaster III was produced by Boeing, has a total length of 53 meters, a wingspan of 52 meters, and can carry a total load of approx. 77 tons. Its range can reach up to 5,200 kilometres. (Photo: RAAF)
the C-17A Globemaster III was produced by Boeing, has a total length of 53 meters, a wingspan of 52 meters, and can carry a total load of approx. 77 tons. Its range can reach up to 5,200 kilometres. (Photo: RAAF)

“Royal Australian Air Force successfully moved over 109 tonnes of machinery and cargo both in and out of Antarctica, conducted an air drop of four heliboxes from 500 feet and simulated an emergency aeromedical evacuation. “The opportunity to test the C-17A in these conditions has proven to be an invaluable experience for the Royal Australian Air Force to enhance the capability of this aircraft and Australia’s logistical and scientific capabilities in Antarctica.”

Results from the series of flights will now be considered by the AAD and the Australian Defence Force. Currently there are no future commitments by either AAD or RAAF to undertake future flights.

Source: Australian Antarctic Division