Saturday, December 02, 2006

Goodbye Ice Runway

During the last two months, a view similar to this
was what welcomed me each morning. However, as the
temperatures begin to rise, the ice of McMurdo Sound
can no longer support a operational runway. Today,
Fleet Ops began the day-long process of closing down
the Ice Runway and moved almost all of the small
buildings to Williams Field (NZWF) and the Pegasus White
Ice Runway (NZPG) several miles away on permanent sea ice.

While it was open, the Ice Runway (NZIR) contained a
small town called Ice Town. A similar town will be set
up at Williams Field and offers support for everyone
working on the runway. This includes warm-up shacks,
storage units and a galley so that everyone can eat
without coming all the way back into town.

The nice aspect of the Ice Runway, other than it's close
proximity to town is that every type of plane that landed
at McMurdo could use it. Not so for the other two runways.
C-17s can only use the Pegasus runway and Williams Field
(Willy Field) is only suitable for lighter planes with
props. Either way, it's a really long trip. It was less
than 15 minutes to the Ice Runway while a minimum of 45
minutes needs to be allocated to get to Willy. Tack on
even more time for Pegasus.

Gerald, the Supervisor of Fleet Ops, was nice enough to
send me some maps of the runways and as I've never seen
these online, I thought I'd post one here. It's really
not that much different from any small commercial airport
in other parts of the world. One long runway with taxi-
ways, an apron for the waiting planes to sit, a control
tower and many support buildings. The fact that it's in
Antarctica and sitting over almost a thousand feet of
water below 10-12 feet of ice makes it unique. In less
than a month even the site of the Ice Runway will be gone.
Melted away and posing as a turning basin for the incoming
cargo vessels. Another sign that the summer season on The
Ice is quickly moving along.

1 comment:

Fishdecoy said...

Tom, perhaps you would be willing to help build the Wikipedia's article on Williams Field. We could also use a good fact-checker by someone familiar with operations at Williams and locale.