New Airfield of Station “Progress” in Antarctica Welcomes First Plane

Ил-76 на аэродроме станции "Прогресс" в Антарктиде. Фото: ААНИИ /

The first plane landed at the new snow and ice airfield of the Russian station “Progress” in Antarctica. On November 7, the heavy cargo aircraft Il-76 of Volga-Dnepr Airlines delivered 82 passengers and 6.6 tons of cargo from Cape Town to the southern continent of the Earth, covering 5,300km in six and a half hours. The airfield was prepared for it by the expedition members of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute(AARI) and employees of the company “Zapsibgazprom”.

“The opening of a new airfield at the station ‘Progress’ is a successful result of the collective work of a large number of specialists. It is impossible not to mention the scientists and builders who managed to build an airfield in the most difficult conditions in the shortest possible time, pilots who landed the plane on a new site with almost zero visibility. This is a truly historic event that will change the work of the entire Russian Antarctic Expedition in many ways. The new runway will allow us to start seasonal work much earlier, including work on the creation of a new wintering complex of the station ‘Vostok’," said Aleksandr Makarov, director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

Among the passengers of the first plane that landed at the new airfield are specialists from the company “Zapsibgazprom”. They will have to build a new wintering complex of the station “Vostok”. The IL-76 also brought participants of the 68th Russian Antarctic Expedition from Cape Town. Cargo delivered by the aircraft is intended for construction work.

AARI’s Russian Antarctic Expedition works continuously on the southern continent. Its participants are winterers and members of seasonal teams performing various tasks in the Antarctic summer. In Antarctica, the institute's employees constantly monitor changes in the natural environment at five year-round stations: “Novolazarevskaya”, “Bellingshausen”, “Mirny”, “Progress”, and “Vostok”. In the summer, work is also carried out at the seasonal field bases "Molodezhnaya", "Druzhnaya-4", "Oasis Bangera", "Russkaya", and "Leningradskaya".

The company “Zapsibgazprom” provides assembly of the new wintering complex of the station “Vostok”. It has been under construction since 2019. Leonid Mikhelson, chairman of the Management Board of “NOVATEK” PAO, presented the project at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society. The complex “Vostok” will consist of five modules: residential and public facilities for polar explorers, energy centers and technical units for water purification and storage systems, as well as a garage. All of them will stand on supports with a height of 3m, which will help to avoid snowdrifts for many years. The length of the complex is 140m, the total area of the facilities is about 2,000m² . The project provides for a two-year supply of fuel and food.

The length of the runway of the new airfield is 3,000m, width – 100m. It is capable of receiving IL-76 heavy cargo aircraft, as well as small aircraft. This season, four flights are planned along the route Cape Town – Station “Progress” – Cape Town.

The former runway at the station “Progress” has been in operation since 2012. It was suitable for small aircraft and flights between stations, delivery of small cargo and participants in seasonal work.