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Williams Field

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Title: Williams Field  
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Subject: McMurdo Station, 139th Airlift Squadron, Basler BT-67, Marble Point, The E and B Experiment
Collection: Airports in the Ross Dependency, Coastal Construction, McMurdo Station
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Williams Field

Williams Field


Location of Williams Field in Antarctica
Location of airfield in Antarctica
Airport type Public
Location McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Elevation AMSL 68 ft / 21 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
07/25 10,000 3,048 Snow
15/33 10,000 3,048 Snow
Source: DAFIF[1][2]

Williams Field or Willy Field (ICAO: NZWD) is a United States Antarctic Program airfield in Antarctica. Williams Field consists of two snow runways located on approximately 8 meters (25 ft) of compacted snow, lying on top of 80 meters (262 ft) of ice, floating over 550 meters (1,800 ft) of water.[3] The airport, which is approximately seven miles from Ross Island, serves McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. Until the 2009-10 summer season, Williams was the major airfield for on-continent aircraft operations in Antarctica.

Williams Field is named in honor of Richard T. Williams, a United States Navy equipment operator who drowned when his D-8 tractor broke through the ice on January 6, 1956. Williams and other personnel were participants in the first Operation Deep Freeze, a U.S. military mission to build a permanent science research station at McMurdo Station in anticipation of the International Geophysical Year 1957–58.


  • Operation 1
  • Current Aircraft in Use 2
  • Historical Notes 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Caterpillar Challenger machines perform constant runway grooming

The skiway was typically in operation from December through to the end of February. Other McMurdo Station airfields include the Ice Runway (October to December) and Pegasus Field used in August and December through to February of each season.[4]

The Williams Field snow runway is known locally as "Willy's Field." The airfield is a groomed snow surface that can support ski-equipped aircraft landings only. A cluster of facilities for flight operations, referred to as "Willy Town," includes several rows of containers for workers and a galley. Some of the buildings are relocated to support flight operations at the nearby Ice Runway and distant Pegasus Field. Willy Field Tavern, a bar at the airfield, closed in 1994.

Aviation fuel at Williams Field is pumped in a 16 km (10 mi) flexible pipe from McMurdo Station. Fuel is stored in up to 12 tanks. The fuel tanks, like other structures at the airfield, are mounted on skis or runners for portability.[5] Generator and heating fuel is delivered to the station by fuel trucks from McMurdo Station, with fuels stored at the individual structures.

The extraordinary conditions encountered at Williams Field include the fact that the airfield is in a continuous slow slide towards the sea. Seaward movement of the floating McMurdo Ice Shelf upon which the airfield is constructed has forced Williams Field to be relocated three times since its original construction. Workers last moved the airfield during the 1984-85 season.[6] Subsequently, personnel housed at Williams lived in buildings constructed on sleds to facilitate relocation. In the past, up to 450 people were housed at the airfield, according to the National Science Foundation. In 1994 the National Science Foundation constructed two dorm buildings at McMurdo Station and began transporting personnel to Williams Field using various vehicles including Foremost Delta II and Ford E-350 vans.

Current Aircraft in Use

Historical Notes

Williams Field support structures as seen from the cargo line
  • 1957: Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser makes round trip from Christchurch to McMurdo Sound. First civilian flight to Antarctica.
  • 1960: U.S. Navy WV-2 BuNo 126513 crashes after landing short of the ice runway.
  • 1960: First ski-equipped C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft lands in Antarctica.
  • 1960: Sunspots knock out radio communications for eight days, forcing cancellation of all flights between New Zealand and McMurdo.
  • 1966: First all-jet aircraft (USAF-C-141) lands at Williams.
  • 1967: Earliest scheduled winter fly-in.
  • 1970: U.S. Navy "Pegasus" C-121J crash lands. Aircraft is destroyed but no fatalities among the 80 persons aboard. Pegasus Field is named after this aircraft.
  • 1979: Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashes on nearby Mt Erebus. 257 people die

See also


  1. ^ Airport information for NZWD at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  2. ^ Airport information for NZWD at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
  3. ^ Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program; National Science Foundation.
  4. ^ "Chapter 7: Stations and Ships", 2010-2012 USAP Participant Guide]. United States Antarctica Program, May 2010.
  5. ^ Planning and Hazards of Spill Response in Antarctica. Erich R. Gundlach, E-Tech International, Inc.; John J. Gallagher Gallagher, Marine Systems, Inc.; John Hatcher and Tom Vinson, Raytheon Polar Services Company. 2001 International Oil Spill Conference.
  6. ^ Berthing at McMurdo for Williams Field, Office of Polar Programs; National Science Foundation. August 19, 1993.


  • Change of Command pamphlet. U.S. Naval Support Force Antarctica; June 10, 1991.
  • Clarke, Peter; On the Ice. Rand McNally & Company, 1966.
  • Ice can give airmen that sinking feeling, The Tacoma, Wash.; November 20, 2006.
  • McMurdo 1960 Crash
  • United States Antarctic Research Program Calendars: 1983, 1985.
  • Where danger and wonder collide, The Tacoma, Wash.; November 20, 2006.

External links

  • Aircraft of Antarctica
  • Moving the Airport, December 21, 1999.
  • List of stratospheric balloon launches under NASA's Long Duration Balloon program
  • Current weather for NZWD at NOAA/NWS
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