The first aircraft landed at the new snow and ice airfield of the Russian Progress station in Antarctica. On November 7, a heavy transporter Il-76 of the Volga-Dnepr airline delivered 82 passengers and 6.6 tons of cargo from Cape Town to the southern continent of the Earth, covering 5.3 thousand km in six and a half hours. The air harbor for it was prepared by members of the expedition of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and employees of the Zapsibgazprom company.
— The opening of a new airfield at the Progress station 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, the pilots who landed the plane on a new site with almost zero visibility. This is a truly historic event that will largely change the work of the entire Russian Antarctic Expedition. The new runway will allow us to start seasonal work much earlier, including work on the creation of a new wintering complex for the Vostok station– said the director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Alexander Makarov.
Among the passengers of the first aircraft that landed at the new airfield are specialists from the Zapsibgazprom company. They are to build a new wintering complex for the Vostok station. Il-76 also brought members of the 68th Russian Antarctic Expedition from Cape Town. Cargo delivered by aircraft is intended to support construction work.
The Russian Antarctic Expedition of AARI works continuously on the Southern Continent. Its participants are winterers and members of seasonal detachments performing various tasks during 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. During the summer period, work is also carried out at the seasonal field bases Molodyozhnaya, Druzhnaya-4, Banger’s Oasis, Russkaya and Leningradskaya.
The Zapsibgazprom company provides assembly of a new wintering complex for the Vostok station. Work on its creation has been underway since 2019. Chairman of the Board of PAO NOVATEK Leonid Mikhelson introduced project at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society. The Vostok complex will consist of five modules: residential and public premises for polar explorers, energy centers and technical units for a water purification and storage system, as well as a garage. All of them will stand on supports 3 m high, which will avoid snow drifts for many years. The length of the complex is 140 m, the total area of the premises is about 2000 m2. The project provides for a two-year supply of fuel and products.
The length of the runway of the new airfield is 3,000 m, the width is 100 m. It is capable of receiving heavy transporters of the Il-76 type, as well as small aircraft. This season, four flights are planned on the route Cape Town – Progress Station – Cape Town.
The former runway at the Progress station has been in operation since 2012. It was suitable for small aircraft and providing flights between stations, delivery of small cargoes and participants in seasonal work.