Already in the 1990’s Norway contacted the other nations with facilities in Dronning Maud Land (DML) to discuss the possibilities of an evaluation of flight operations in DML using the commercial operator Adventure Network International (ANI).
An evaluation flight with 20 people from 8 countries was carried out in 2000. The group included several specialists within different fields. The flight evaluation report concluded that the work with an international air network should continue. During the COMNAP meeting in China in July, 2002 it was agreed to establish an organisation, DROMLAN.
The administrative structure of DROMLAN consists of a Steering Committee, a Support Group and an Executive Director. The Steering Committee is responsible for the general direction of the DROMLAN, and consists of one representative from each participating country. This Committee is the DROMLAN project’s decision making body for policy, financial matters, operating guidelines and the annual programme and decisions are reached by consensus. The Executive Director acts on behalf of DROMLAN nations within a framework agreed by the Steering Committee.
The aim of the DROMLAN project is to provide air transport to/from and within DML to any member country of COMNAP and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) in science related activities, including logistics. This includes the following actions:
- To organize air transport between Cape Town and DML.
- To maintain and improve the airfield at the Novolazarevskaya station and establish and maintain an airfield at the Troll station.
- To organize feeder flights inside DROMLAN area.
- To organize any other service necessary for the flights above.
DROMLAN operations up to date
The intercontinental flights between Cape Town and Novolazarevskaya (Russia) and Troll (Norway) have been performed with Ilyushin IL-76TD and C-130 Hercules aircraft. The Antarctic Logistic Center International (ALCI) performed the majority of the DROMLAN operations to date in co-operation with the DROMLAN members.
The C-130 flights have been carried out to TROLL Airfield, only (by the Norwegian Royal Air Force in season 2004/2005 and by the Swedish Royal Air Force in season 2005/2006).
Since the 2002/2003 season, flight operations are being established under contract between national operators and the commercial operator (for the time been ALCI) organizing intercontinental flights. National operators support feeder flights to various stations and provide other services necessary.
One important development has been the establishment of a detailed and individual weather forecast at Neumayer station, in order to improve safety and reliability of intercontinental and feeder flight activities.
DROMLAN flight pattern
Both Novolazarevskaya-Airbase and Troll Runway have been fully operational since the 2004/2005 season. National and commercial operators will further support feeder flights within Dronning Maud Land. Supporting services such as weather forecasts, fuel provision and accommodation are being provided by national operators. The principle flight pattern is to get rapid access to the region as well as to extend the summer season period. Depending on the requested number of passengers and amount of cargo DROMLAN aims to perform 6 to 7 intercontinental flights from Cape Town. The connection flights to the various destinations in the operational area will be provided by small aircraft such as Basler (BT-67), Twin Otter, Dornier 228-101 operated by the national programs.
DROMLAN long term plans
A long term plan has been worked out for 5 years, as the first period of the project, lasting from 2003 until 2008. Both the Airfields at Novolazarevskaya and TROLL will be operational for intercontinental flights and in use during this period. Necessary upgrading of both airfield facilities will take place in the said period, as needs arise and funds are made available. National and commercial operators will further support feeder flights within DML with weather forecast, fuel and accommodation.
Based on experience thus far, DROMLAN has proved to be a very efficient way for national operators with mutual interest in the same geographical area to solve transport needs in a cost effective and rapid way. Preparation and daily administrative matters can be directed to a smaller group, tasked to deal with these issues, and working effort can be given in full scale to own programmes and scientific work.
We, the DROMLAN Community, like to think that this set up could stand as a model for other international co-operation, both in science and logistics in Antarctica, and hope that other COMNAP and SCAR members can also benefit from our airlink set up.