The largest-ever plane to fly to Australia's Wilkins aerodrome in Antarctica has landed safely after making the more than 3400 kilometre trip to the icy continent.
The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) said on Sunday that the C-17A Globemaster III plane touched down successfully at the remote aerodrome near Casey station on Saturday afternoon, before unloading more than 12,000 kilograms of cargo.
Flying high on C-17A proof of concept success in Antarctica https://t.co/tkTPvU6JPO— Antarctic Division (@AusAntarctic) November 21, 2015
The mission was a joint effort between the AAD and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The C-17A flew the 3450km route from Hobart in just over five hours, with the "concept flight" part of a series scheduled to take place between November 2015 and February 2016.
The success means Australia joins other nations with interests in Antarctica like US, NZ, UK, and Russia who have used "heavy jets" to reach the frozen continent.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the historic C-17A trip was an effort to boost the AAD's logistical and scientific capacities.
“The C-17A is the largest aircraft to have flown to Wilkins Aerodrome in Antarctica," Hunt said.
“It can fly at speeds of up to 830km/h to a distance of up to 10,000kms.
“Whilst this is a first for the Royal Australian Air Force, other countries including the United States regularly use military assets to assist with Antarctic logistics and I am confident Australia can do the same.”
Wilkins is about 70 kilometres from Casey Station, Australia's largest base in Antarctica.
Interesting day at work yesterday. Travelled to Antarctica in a C-17A Globemaster and back again in about 13 hours! pic.twitter.com/Ssp7YAZNVn— Linda Hunt (@lindafvhunt) November 21, 2015
The military transport aircraft can transport more than 77,000kg worth of cargo, equivalent to around 48 mid-sized sedans.
"It allows us to test our C-17As in extremely challenging Antarctic conditions, while supporting the great work carried out by the Australian Antarctic Division," RAAF Commodore Richard Lennon told AAP.
AAD director Nick Gales described the flight as significant, saying it would cut down the time it took to transport heavy gear to Antarctica.
"It means we can bring heavy equipment in and out of Antarctic whereas it would have taken us two years in the past on the ship - one year in, one year out - we are now able to do it within a season," Gales told the ABC.
"It is an enormous advance in planning (and) all the work we do. It is a major step."