Close sidebar

RAAF C-17 completes Antarctic winter airdrop

written by | June 8, 2016
Start of the airdrop sequence. (Chad Griffiths/Defence)

A RAAF C-17 Globemaster airlifter has successfully completed a test airdrop of supplies and equipment to the Australian Antarctic Division’s Casey station.

The C-17 dropped 1,500kg of medical supplies, mechanical equipment including tractor parts and mail via three pallets, validating the concept of resupply from the air during winter when Australia’s Antarctic bases can’t otherwise be reached by air or sea.

“This is a really significant development, improving the logistical support we can provide to all our stations, Casey, Mawson and Davis, over the long winter period,” Australian Antarctic Division future concepts manager Matt Filipowski said in a statement.


Access to Australia’s Antarctic stations traditionally has been limited to the summer months between October and March, Filipowski explained.

“During winter Antarctica is cloaked in darkness and experiences extreme temperatures, which means we can’t reach our stations by sea or air.”

The load was delivered using the A22 high velocity container delivery system, with the normally RAAF Amberley-based C-17 flying out of Avalon Airport near Melbourne to allow the crew to confirm suitable weather over the  drop zone, which was located on the Casey plateau. The aircraft departed Avalon early on Saturday morning for the 10 hour, nearly 8,000km round trip to Antarctica. The drop was undertaken in low light with temperatures of below -30 degrees Celsius.

“We previously made an airdrop via a helibox in February this year, which was successful,” officer commanding 86 Wing, Group Captain Adam Williams, said.


“Using a different airdrop method, such as the high-velocity drop, we can increase the loads and perform the airdrop with a higher tolerance for inclement weather.

“This delivery system allows the loads to fall at a higher speed, reducing the time spent in the air and limiting the effect of the wind during the descent.”

antarctic (1)
The airdrop as seen from the ground. (Michael Brill/AAD)

Planning the airdrop included rehearsing the flight in the C-17 simulator, 36 Squadron pilot Flight Lieutenant Doug Susans explained.

“There were a number of challenging environmental conditions including freezing temperatures, darkness and a featureless environment,” FLTLT Susans said.

“We undertook training in the simulator before the mission to make sure we were familiar with the locations, timings and observations.”

antarctic (2)
photo – Michael Brill/AAD

The airdrop is part of a series of trials to validate the C-17’s ability to support the Australian Antarctic Division.

During summer a series of five trial flights delivered a total of 109 tonnes of cargo to Wilkins aerodrome, while a sixth flight was flown to Wilkins to recover three Squirrel helicopters and 28 expeditioners after a blizzard damaged the supply ship Aurora Australis.

antarctic (3)
Loading the pallets onto a sled for transport to Casey station. (Katie Senekin/AAD)

Sign up to our digital magazine before 30 June and receive a FREE print edition. Starting at just $99.95 a year, you will get the latest news and insights direct to you, including Australia’s most popular print magazine since 1977. Subscribe now at


  • ngatimozart


    Really good capability to have. The next question to ask is will the possibility exist of being able to land the c17 at Casey during the winter months?

    On another note a USAF C17 flew into McMurdo from Christchurch today for a midwinter supply flight. Apparently it is dropping off some personnel for McMurdo and returning some to Christchurch for the US National Science Foundation . No NZ Antarctic personnel changes are happening this month. This is now SOP after successful trials last year. Shows the versatility of the aircraft.

  • Fabian mueller


    The RAAF have landed a c-17 in summer months but during winter it would be extremely hard. The pilots will have no visual of the runway all because it keeps on getting layered with snow.

  • Jason


    The Wilkins ice runway is not usable in winter, whereas the USAF base at McMurdo is an actual concrete runway.

  • R Evans


    I can assure you there is no “concrete” runway at McMurdo. Just a permanent ice runway (NZPG).

  • Darryl


    @ Jason, no concrete runway at McMurdo, never was & never will be, the runway is made out of layers of blue ice & is called Pegasus

  • Jason


    Yeah sorry, my bad

  • David


    Another example of why we should be acquiring more C-17’s.

  • George B


    There are no more C-17s being built for ANYONE. The line is closed. Haven’t we been through this topic before?

  • Gary


    Yes George we have. However, one remains unsold though.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year