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How to Operate an Airport in Antarctica

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2021

This video and blog post look at the challenges of building and maintaining a 3000-meter ice runway in Antarctica. It bears some resemblance to grooming ski slopes and maintaining ice rinks.

Once the snow is removed, the runway is inspected for cracks, pits, or any other deficiencies that would prevent a safe landing. These are repaired by crews with a mixture of cold water, ice chips, and snow that is poured on, allowed to harden, and then smoothed over.

Finally, two snow groomers with tillers grind a small layer of ice to create a top layer of crushed snow and ice that gives the runway the necessary friction for aircraft to operate. Lidström points out that equipment at Troll isn’t necessarily purpose built, ‘These are the same machines that you see on ski slopes, but with a tiller grinder attached.’

There’s even a small terminal with bathrooms and wifi, amenities which aren’t available at all Antarctic airfields.