Australia is now able to get critical supplies to its more remote Antarctic bases after mid-air refuelling allowed an RAAF cargo plane to reach Davis Station.
The C-17A was topped-up mid-air about halfway through the seven-hour flight, allowing it to complete a 10,000-kilometre round trip without landing.
Commander Ben Cullen from the RAAF said the fuel hose from the tanker plane was positioned into place by a boom.
“The aircraft simply fly a formation quite close to each other, about 18 metres is about the distance we end up flying from each other,” he said.
It’s the first time Davis Station has been reached directly from the mainland. (Supplied: Barry Becker/AAD)
The plane was a welcome sight for researchers at Davis Station yesterday as nine tonnes of fresh produce, supplies and parcels from home sailed slowly down to the sea ice under parachute.
The fact that the plane was able to reach David Station — some 4,800 kilometres from Hobart — meant Davis’ inhabitants would no longer be completely isolated for much of the year.
Typically, Davis is closed from April through to October and is resupplied by ship when the sea ice recedes.
Australia’s Antarctic bases — Casey, Davis and Mawson — are spread out over vast distances. (Supplied: AAD)
But the pioneering airdrop demonstrated critical supplies and equipment could now be delivered year-round.
The Australian Antarctic Division’s Matt Filipowski said it was an exciting day for the program.
“We can now reach them any time of year,” he said.
The successful airdrop to Davis Station means Mawson Station, which is further a field, is also conceivably within reach. (Supplied: Barry Becker/AAD)
Australia has three stations in Antarctica with Casey being the closest, then Davis and Mawson being the most remote.
Mr Filipowski said yesterday’s successful Davis airdrop also placed Mawson within reach.
“Mawson is conceivably the next step — it’s 5,500 kilometres from Hobart,” he said.
“It’s a big step forward for us.”
Mr Filipowskis said the new capability would benefit researchers from all fields as it would allow operations to extend outside the October to April window.
The station’s chef Kerryn Oates welcomes the delivery of fresh produce. (Supplied: Tony D’Amico/AAD)
–Top Twitter To Follow: