First permanent airport to be built in South Pole

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/29 22:13:40

Members of China's 34th Antarctic expedition prepare to transfer large engineering equipments from China's research icebreaker Xuelong to the Inexpressible Island, where the country's 5th research station will begin construction near the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, on Jan. 16, 2018. The new base is expected to set up within five years, and will provide year-round support for researchers conducting tasks such as observations of land, ocean, atmosphere, ice shelf and biology, establishment of an observation and monitoring network in the Antarctic, and survey of marine environmental protection. (Xinhua/Bai Guolong)

China will build the country's first permanent airport in the South Pole, which analysts said will provide logistical support to scientists and enhance airspace management in the Antarctic.

The 35th China's Antarctic expedition will leave on Friday and the major task is to build the airport, which is expected to be located along the ice sheet, 28 kilometers from the China-built Zhongshan station in the Antarctic, the Science and Technology Daily reported.

"The new airport allows medium and large transport aircraft, like Boeing planes, to take off and land in the South Pole, shortening transport time as well as enhancing efficiency," Zhang Xia, director of the Polar Strategy Center at the Polar Research Institute of China, told the Global Times on Monday.

He noted that the airport will complete China's aviation security system in the Antarctic, including the communications and meteorological support systems. The new airport will provide logistical support to Chinese scientists' research there. Specifically, the airport will decrease the exposure time of researchers in the polar environment, as well as medical aid time, he said.

The establishment of the airport will also help China gain management authority of airspace over the South Pole, the Science and Technology Daily reported.

However, analysts pointed out that the project faces many difficulties, just like building an investigation station.

"Around 99.5 percent of the polar land is covered with accumulations of thick snow leading to a lack of hardness to build an airport," Zhang explained, adding that the flat area in the Antarctic is not enough either, and some original districts have already been occupied by other countries.

He noted that the existing runway near the Taishan station is only fit for light aircraft equipped with sleds, which have limited transport capabilities.

During the 25th investigation in the Antarctic, Chinese scientists built a 4-kilometer-long, 50-meter-wide runway for fixed-wing aircraft in 2009. In 2010, an airport called Feiying was constructed on the ice sheet, the Xinhua News Agency reported in February 2010.

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