Canadian planes fly ailing Antarctic workers to safety
Thursday, June 23, 2016, 2:36 PM - Canadian aircraft have completed the medical evacuation of two people working at a research base in Antarctica.
The two workers, details of whose condition have not been released, were extracted from a base at the South Pole, which is enduring the harsh conditions of the Antarctic winter, and ferried by two Canadian-owned Twin Otter aircraft to Chile. The patients were later taken to an undisclosed medical facility.
One of the Twin Otters flew from the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Station some 2,400 km to the U.S. National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott research base at the South Pole. After arrival, the crew rested 10 hours, after which the weather conditions were deemed suitable to fly out with the two patients, along with a medical technician.
That Twin Otter returned safely to Rothera, where the patients were transferred to a second Twin Otter, which flew them to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. They arrived safely on Wednesday.
Image: A Twin Otter plane taxis on the skiway at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Credit: Robert Schwarz, National Science Foundation.
Normally, no flights are planned out of the South Pole facility from February to October each year during the worst of the winter months. The British Antarctic Survey's operations director, Tim Stockings, told the National Post that weather conditions can change rapidly in Antarctica.
"The air and Antarctica are unforgiving environments and punishes any slackness very hard,” Stockings told the National Post. "If you are complacent, it will bite you."
Both Twin Otters were operated by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air, and set out for Antarctica on June 14.
Though a winter rescue is a risky endeavour, the National Science Foundation says Kenn Borek was chosen due to the company's experience in two other medical emergency flights in 2001 and 2003.