"News about the USAP, the Ice, and the People"
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo

Three planes in distance as seen from under plane wing.
Photo Credits: Peter Rejcek

On thin ice

Airfield rebuilt every year on annual sea ice near McMurdo Station

The U.S. Antarctic Program External U.S. government site builds a temporary airfield External U.S. government site on the sea ice in McMurdo Sound every year for use by both ski-equipped and wheeled aircraft that provide transportation to and from the continent, as well as those that support research to far-flung field camps. Construction begins before the summer field season in October, and the airfield is in operation until early December, when the sea ice begins to soften and melt. Operations are then moved to an airfield call Pegasus White Ice Runway on the thicker permanent ice shelf. Types of aircraft include the Twin Otter and U.S. Air Force LC-130, both seen above. The advantage of the Annual Sea Ice Runway is its proximity to McMurdo Station External U.S. government site, less than a 10-minute ride away. Transportation to Pegasus can take upwards of an hour, depending on snow-road conditions. Below are additional photos from the sea ice runway.

Buildings and plane on ice. 
Airfield buildings

Plane parked in front of hill. 

Two airplanes sit next to each other. 
Two Basler aircraft

Planes on ice. 
Aircraft and Ross Island

Emergency Vehicles 
Emergency vehicles

Helicopter sits on ice. 
Helicopter at airfield