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Medical rescue plane on way to South Pole to pick up sick worker from station

In this photo provided by the Courtesy British Antarctic Survey, Rothera, the British Antarctic Survey station is seen from the air. A daring South Pole medical rescue is underway. An airplane left a British base in Antarctica Tuesday, June 21, 2016, for the 1,500-mile trip to evacuate a sick person from the U.S. station. Athena Dinar, spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey, said one of two twin otter planes began the trip Tuesday, while the other is still at the Rothera station on the Antarctic Peninsula just in case.
Image Credit: British Antarctic Survey via AP
June 21, 2016 - 1:00 PM

CALGARY - A plane was heading to the South Pole to pick up a sick worker at a research station.

The National Science Foundation says one of two Twin Otters owned by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air was expected to arrive Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.

The foundation says in a release the plane took advantage of a "favourable weather window" and left this morning for the 10-hour flight.

The flight is necessary because a worker at the research station requires hospitalization and needs to be evacuated.

Foundation spokesman Peter West says there's another patient who may also need to be taken out, but that decision has yet to be made.

The other plane will remain at Rothera, a British station on the Antarctic peninsula, to provide search-and-rescue capability if needed.

West says no other details about both patients will be released due to patient confidentiality.

The planes left Calgary a week ago and got to Rothera on Monday. They were held up in Punta Arenas, Chile, since Thursday due to bad weather.

It's mid-winter in Antarctica and the foundation says flights in and out of the station are usually not planned between February and October due to extreme cold and darkness.

There is no tarmac runway at the Pole, so aircraft must land on skis in total darkness on compacted snow.

"The planes are rated to operate in temperatures as low as -75 Celsius, generally at Pole its about -60 C at this time of year but it fluctuates," West said.

Kenn Borek provides contractual logistical support to the Antarctic Program, according to the foundation, and conducted similar evacuations in 2001 and 2003.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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