Heavylift / Breakbulk
A major project in the ice
The Australian government is getting ever more interested in establishing an airfield in the Antarctic – where the ice isn’t quite as ‘eternal’ as is popularly believed, by the way. The protests of campaigners for the environment as well as of critics who doubt the economic benefits of the billion-dollar project are simultaneously growing too. Interested parties have until 9 February to submit their intentions. There are currently around two dozen airfields on the southern continent; they are all only operational between September and March. Two such ice and rubble runways were recently once again prepared by Australian experts for the handling of C-17s aeroplanes.
The planned Davis Aerodrome in the Vestfoldbergen, in contrast, is due to be tarmaced over, which would enable year-round aviation operations for the first time. Its 2.7 km lighted runway could also welcome Airbus A330s and Boeing B787s. Together with the apron, taxiing lanes, control tower and other buildings the new airport would cover approximately 2 km2; it would be linked to the Davis research station by a 4.5 km road. Seven years of construction would increase the entire Antarctic’s overall infrastructure by about 40%.
A truly Herculean task
The runway would consist of 11,500 prefabricated concrete slabs, manufactured in Australia and assembled on site. Bringing in the 10 t units would call for more than a Hercules transport aeroplane. They’d be brought in by barge; the route would have to be cleared by icebreakers that have yet to be purchased. The slabs would be shifted to the site on trailers and placed in position by a crane. The 130 employees needed would have to live in a provisional village during the short Antarctic summer. Tank storage facilities, explosives depots and workshops would also be required.