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Skytraders Pty Ltd
Skytraders logo
IATA ICAO Callsign
Operating basesTullamarine Airport, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
HubsTullamarine Airport, Melbourne
Fleet size4
Headquarters180 Jersey Road, Woollahra, New South Wales, Australia
Key peopleNorman F Mackay (CEO)

Skytraders is an Australian airline. It is headquartered at 180 Jersey Road, Woollahra, New South Wales, Australia. Skytraders was founded in 1979.[1] It is the provider of specialist air services to the Australian Federal Government.[2][3][4]


1979 – 1993 Commencing in 1979, Skytraders was contracted for the weekly movement of 40 tonne DC8 loads of chilled lamb and produce to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. With the introduction of 747 freighters, Skytraders pioneered the movement of live cattle by air from Australia. They also developed the ‘Skybox’, which allows for the transport of fresh carcass beef from abattoirs to end users in Japan without the need for refrigeration.[5] This technology largely attributed to Australia becoming the largest supplier of high-end fresh chilled beef to the Japanese market.[6] By 1990, Skytraders itself had become Australia’s largest shipper of export airfreight and was awarded the Austrade Gold Medal by the Australian Federal Government.[7]

1993 – 2002 In a joint-venture with Qantas and DHL, in 1993 Skytraders commenced a nightly express service between Sydney and Auckland that utilised a Boeing 727-100 freighter. The program addressed the need for moving large numbers of thoroughbred bloodstock at the same time as meeting the international express operator’s requirement for trans-Tasman close of business pick up and next morning delivery.[8]

2002–Present In 2002, Skytraders was awarded a long-term contract by the Australian Antarctic Division for the provision of a range of Antarctic air services.[9]


Skytraders Airbus A319-115, VH-VHD on the Ice Runway at McMurdo Station, Antarctica (2010)

According to the Skytraders website, Skytraders have four key service areas including Antarctic Link, Government, Private Charter and Logistics.[10] Skytraders operates flights to support the Australian Antarctic Division's scientific research programme in Antarctica. Skytraders' website also states the company offers charter services to executives and VIPs during the Northern Hemisphere summer.[11]

A Skytraders Airbus A319 has been used on behalf of the Australian government to ferry asylum seekers to the remote pacific island state of Nauru.[12] According to the publication Crikey, Skytraders made a request to the global flight tracking organisation, FlightAware, that its asylum-seeker transportation flights not be tracked.[13]

Antarctic Link[edit]

In 2002 Skytraders was chosen out of 7 tenders to be the official air link to Antarctica.[14] According to the ABC[15] their world-renowned safety systems won them the tender. They operate an Airbus Corporate Jet between Hobart and a hard glacier runway near Casey Station. The service aims to provide 25 flights each summer, with the first flights launching in the summer of 2003-2004.[16]


In 2000 Skytraders responded to an Australian Commonwealth Government ‘Call for Registration of Interest’ for the design and construction of an Air Transport System for Antarctica. This was followed by a formal ‘Request for Proposal’ that resulted in Skytraders being awarded a contract for the provision of a range of Antarctic air services under a long-term agreement.[17]

In 2002 the Australian Government selected Skytraders to provide an Intercontinental Airlink from Australia to Antarctica for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). Scientists, support staff and cargo are flown in an Airbus A319 jet aircraft from Hobart to Wilkins Runway, near Casey Station. This continent-to-continent service takes approximately 4.5 hours[18]

The Airbus A319 operates to and from the purpose-built Wilkins Runway - a 4,000-metre long snow capped blue-ice runway in the Upper Petersen Glacier located 70 km from Casey Station. The Airlink operates between Hobart and Antarctica between mid-October to mid-March. This air link has increased the capability and flexibility of AAD's logistics system and provides access and opportunity for its science programs. The aircraft's configuration can be modified from passenger to "combi" (passenger and freighter) according to requirements.[19]

The long range of the A319 gives it the capability for remote maritime work, and when not on Antarctic service, it is available for general air charter operations. It is also able to easily complete the Hobart - Casey return trip without refuelling; this was an integral part of Skytraders' proposal for the Airlink. Eliminating the requirement for both the construction of an alternate runway site in Antarctica and any on site refueling has significant economic and environmental benefits.[20]

Private Charter[edit]

Skytraders have staffed corporate jets for long-range intercontinental travel. Skytraders also provide executive charter services to VIP clients.[21] The A319CJ’s on-board air-stairs permit embarkation and disembarkation without the need to await the provision of support by third party handling companies.

The aircraft can also be fitted with stretchers for medical evacuations, or reconfigured to provide a facility for sporting teams to perform physiotherapy or sports massage.[22]


Skytraders offers custom configurations for all logistical requirements and load planning, including Medivac, Logistics planning and remote locations.

Awards and recognition[edit]


Skytraders contribution to the nation’s exports was recognised in 1990 by the Commonwealth Government’s award of the Austrade Gold Medal. Skytrader’s uniquely designed and patented shipping pack was recognised to be integral to Australia’s eventual dominance of the Japanese market that one is now permanently exhibited at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.[23]

June 2003

The Australian Antarctic Division signed a 12-year contract with Skytraders Pty Ltd to provide intra-continental flights between Davis, Casey and Mawson. Two CASA 212-400 fixed-wing aircraft provided transport and field support for the Australian Antarctic program from the summer of 2004/05.[24] The two aircraft are fitted with hydraulic wheel-skis so it can be used on a wider range of surfaces. The aircraft also encompasses a large rear door and ramp allowing over-ground transport vehicles such as skidoos and quad bikes can be loaded into the planes and deployed to remote sites in the field. [25]

March 2008

Skytraders was awarded route authority from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to fly between Australia and Antarctica. The company will now fly passengers from Hobart to the ice runway located at the Wilkins Aerodrome near the Australian Antarctic Division's Casey Station. lt will carry scientists and other personnel going to the station. The first historic trip took place on 11 January between Hobart and he blue ice runway at Wilkins. The flight, with 20 passengers, took four-and-a-half hours one-way. The A$46-million Ice runway took two years to build and actually drifts about 36 Feet a year due to glacial movement! Flights will not be open to regular passengers.[26]

April 2008

Skytraders accepted the Airbus Award[27] for Skytraders’ pioneering of the first flights to the Antarctic by any airliner, the first landings on an ice-runway by any Airbus aircraft, and the first operations on the continent by an Airbus Corporate Jetliner.[28]

August 2012

Environment Minister Tony Burke commended the combined effort of Skytraders and the Australian Antarctic Division in repatriating an expeditioner from America’s Antarctic base. This was the earliest ever winter medical evacuation from Eastern Antarctica.[29][30]


Skytraders Airbus A319LR at Hobart
Skytraders ski-equipped CASA 212-400 about to land at Sydney

As of October 2016 the Skytraders fleet consists of the following aircraft:[31]


  • On 9 May 2010, an incident involving a Skytraders aircraft sparked an enquiry by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). A Skytraders Airbus A319, registered VH-VHD, taxied to the runway in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands for a flight to Christmas Island with the aircraft's integral staircase still extended as it moved across the tarmac. When the crew realised what had happened, they stopped the aircraft and retracted the staircase. Skytraders gave an undertaking to the ATSB to revise its operational procedures as a result of this incident.[32]

Skytraders In The Media[edit]

Channel 9 News

Channel 7 Sunrise Governor-General visits Australian Antarctic Territory Airbus Fast 42

OHS Professional

Australian Aviation The first passenger flight to Antarctica [video]

See also[edit]


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  11. ^ Skytraders website retrieved 2008-01-20.
  12. ^ "Labor silent on legal rights for asylum-seekers". The Australian. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  13. ^ Ben Sandilands (17 September 2012). "Boat people flights blocked on Flightaware jet tracker". Crikey. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
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  21. ^ Very Important Person
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  24. ^ Australian Antarctic Division#Australian Antarctic program
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  29. ^ "Australian Antarctic Division signs aircraft deal". Australian Government, Department of Environment and Energy. 3 June 2003. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
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  31. ^ Australian civil aircraft register search, using "Skytraders" as the search parameter. Search conducted 13 October 2016.
  32. ^ "Operational event - VH-VHD, Cocos (Keeling) Island". Australian Transport Safety Bureau. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 14 September 2012.

External links[edit]