Birdwatching From Germany, joined Sep 2003, 3740 posts, RR: 51 Posted (3 months 3 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 2233 times:
After reading the thread about AR dropping their Argentina - Oceania routes, and QF / LA possibly adding additional frequencies, and the role 2-engined planes play in the market, and the limitations of the different ETOPS regulations (180, 240, 330...) and the cost of certifying aircraft or deploying 4-engined planes or flying detours...
all of this got me thinking...
wouldn't it be feasible for a couple of those (maybe even competing) airlines, maybe with some government subsidies, to just build a runway with just a minimum of facilities, station some employees there (again just the bare minimum to keep the airport serviceable). Right in the middle of that black spot. Sorry for borrowing this map from the other thread:
Yes I now you can't just build a runway in the middle of Antarctica since it's all glaciers and snow, but maybe along the coast, or one of the very southern Pacific islands. Like Peter 1 Island? Or is this part of the world really completely inhospitable? I see there is a UK research base at Rothera. http://goo.gl/maps/h1qUW If this runway was lengthened to the minimum length an A330 or B777 needs, wouldn't that pretty much cover that black patch on the map?
I was wondering if the profit could maybe outweigh the cost.
All the things you probably hate about travelling are warm reminders that I'm home
qf002 From Australia, joined Jul 2011, 2845 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (3 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 2185 times:
No, just no.
I love the out of the box thinking, but this would be so widely impractical on so many levels (you can't even land a small charter/cargo plane in Antarctica for most of the year because of the darkness/weather, never mind a 300 seat commercial jet).
The costs would be enormous (at least 4-5 times the cost of maintaining a similar airport on dry land, simply because of the isolated position) and were talking about a market that will be lucky to be served by 3 daily flights over the next 15-20 years.
We're more likely to see EDTO/ETOPS restrictions eased (with conditions specific to trans-Antarctic flights) than to see airlines/governments attempt a commercial airport in Antarctica (none of the existing airports even meet ICAO standards as they are!).
You're talking about a multi-billion dollar outlay for an airport to serve as a diversion airport for a tiny handful of flights. Even worse, no airliner is certified to operate in the conditions you find in the Antarctic winter. Actually I'm not sure any aircraft is - temperature in the interior drop to less than -80C semi-regularly. So even if you had an airport in the interior, you couldn't actually use it. Along the coasts things are a bit warmer, but subject to a considerable frequency of severe weather (the interior during the winter tends to have considerable wind and blowing snow too, although not much precipitation). So if you actually needed a diversion airport in Antarctica, you'd need more than one to get reasonable odds of one having sufficiently clear weather for use as a legal alternate.
Far cheaper just to run a longer route for that handful of flights.