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November 26, 2021

Australia scraps plan to build runway in Antarctica

The Australian Antarctic Program will continue to operate its intercontinental ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome this year.

The Australian Government has abandoned plans to build a 2.7km runway at its Davis research station in Antarctica, after an environmental and economic assessment.

In 2018, Australia unveiled plans to build the paved runway to boost its Antarctic Program.

Instead, the government is currently considering investments to strengthen Australia’s scientific research and environmental programmes in Antarctica.

Australia Environment Minister Sussan Ley said: “All nations need to place the Antarctic environment at the absolute centre of decision making and respect the Treaty system.

“The government is now considering further investments in our scientific research and environmental programs in Antarctica that continue to create jobs and investment for Tasmania, the international gateway to East Antarctica.

“Over the last five years, the government has thoroughly researched the runway option in a way that has greatly increased our understanding of this unique terrestrial and marine environment, which will help inform our future investment.”

The government said that its Australian Antarctic Program will continue to run its intercontinental ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome later this year with maritime support from RSV Nuyina, an icebreaking research and supply vessel that is currently based in Hobart.

Ley added: “It is now clear that higher projected costs, potential environmental impacts, and the complexity of a 20-year construction process in an extreme and sensitive environment, are such that we will now focus on alternative options for expanding our wider Antarctic Program capability.

“There will be significant announcements on Australia’s enhanced capability in the near future while we continue to protect the environment and create jobs.”

In another development, an Airbus A340 landed in Antarctica for the first time.

A specialist in wet leases, boutique aviation firm Hi Fly is said to have operated the flight.

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