How do you land an airplane in Antarctica? Before this 3000-meter (9842-foot) long glacial blue ice runway was created, traveling to the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Troll Research Station in Antarctica required “a weeks-long boat ride followed by a 250-kilometer trek over snow, ice, and rock.” Today, science teams and support personnel can take one of the two planes per month that land at Troll Airfield from November to Februrary, Antarctica’s summer.
Landing on a blue ice runway has been described as having “the constant feeling that the aircraft was going to spin and that it seemed to take a long time to stop.”
The original construction of the runway was done over two years and accomplished using a laser cutter to level the blue ice near the station, which is located 250 kilometers from the ice shelf at -72.011, 2.52…
Preparing the runway for flights is a two-week process that begins with the removal of snow from the runway. The research station actually puts snow over the runway to help it stay as cold as possible when not in use.
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.
Union Glacier Camp in West Antarctica has a blue ice runway, too. Watch that stylish video next.
Plus, more Antarctica and more glaciers, including these:
• Go inside an ice cave to see nature’s most beautiful blue
• What does it look like underneath a lake covered with Antarctic ice?
• Dropping ice chunks down a borehole in Antarctica: What does that sound like?
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