A C-130J Hercules belonging to the Aeronautica Militare Italiana marked a milestone by successfully landing on the new semi-prepared runway that Italy has built in Antarctica. The work carried out by the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), the AMI and the fire brigade are destined to become an international hub on the white continent, as a gateway for scientific research contingents. The new runway is located on the Boulder Clay glacier, a few kilometers from the Italian Mario Zucchelli base, in Newfoundland Bay.
In this baptismal operation, a Hercules from the 46th Air Brigade transported materials and food to deal with the emergency caused by the reduced thickness of the sea ice. According to what was reported by the ENEAthis situation made it impossible for large planes to land this year on the ice pack in front of the Italian coastal base.
The newsletter published by ENEA describes the characteristics of the new runway: 60 meters wide, with the first 1,700 meters of the 2,200 planned for the project having been completed. The track was first built on a moraine, taking advantage of the rubble deposits that dominate Boulder Clay, a glacier more than 100 meters thick, located 4 km from the Zucchelli station. The works will be completed in the coming months, which will allow us to have an aerostructure at the top of its capacities.
“This landing strip will increase the reliability, flexibility and security of the logistics operations of the PNRA – National Antarctic Research Program”said Elena Campana, head of ENEA’s Antarctic Technical Unit, which is in charge of the logistics planning of Italian shipments. As mentioned, the new infrastructure is also aimed at supporting Antarctic programs in other countries, including New Zealand, South Korea and the United States.
“The Aeronautica Militare has played a fundamental role, both in the design and construction of the Boulder Clay airstrip. This was thanks to the deployment on the site of numerous earthmoving machines supplied to the AM Logistics Command Infrastructure Service. This is a unique project in the world, extremely complex due to the severity of the Antarctic context and the site in which it is located, which required a long preliminary activity of study and monitoring of structural stability, carried out together with researchers from ENEA and PNRA ”explained Lieutenant Colonel Antonello Germinario, engineer officer of the Army del Aire who participated in the design of the work and who this year is playing the role of geotechnical expert and site manager. “To verify the suitability of landing and takeoff of the different categories of aircraft -he adds- the structural resistance indices of the runways are constantly monitored both by the Geotechnical Laboratory of the 2nd AM Engineering Department and by ENEA”.
The 38th Italian Antarctic Expedition began last October and involves more than 240 people, including 23 members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabinieri. Transportation support is provided by C-130J Hercules from the 46th Air Brigade.
Cover image: ENEA.
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Italy launches its new Antarctic runway with a C-130J Hercules