An Australian aircraft has made a rare mid-winter emergency flight to Antarctica involving landing on an icy runway to evacuate a member of a US government expedition in apparent need of urgent surgery, US authorities have said.

The US National Science Foundation said the medical evacuation was carried out on Thursday when a A319 Airbus from Australia's Antarctic research program was due to land with the American patient in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Airbus had already completed the most perilous part of its journey when it touched down on an ice runway or landing strip known as Pegasus near McMurdo Station, one of three year-round research outposts the National Science Foundation
runs in Antarctica.

Flights to Antarctica are usually only made in the summer, but the NSF said the patient, an American member of one of its projects, "may require immediate corrective surgery".

Antarctica is currently emerging from its six-month-long night. There is now a period of twilight during the day that may have assisted pilots in landing on the ice runway.