2 Planes Head from Canada to South Pole for Extremely Rare Medical Evacuation:

SnowBrains | | Industry NewsIndustry News
The South Pole Telescope and the BICEP Telescope at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in August 2008. Photo by Keith Vanderlinde/National Science Foundation/Handout/Reuters
The South Pole Telescope and the BICEP Telescope at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in August 2008. Photo by Keith Vanderlinde/National Science Foundation/Handout/Reuters
On June 14th a Twin Otter airplane and another plane left Calgary, Canada for a 5-day journey to the dead center of the highest, driest, windiest, coldest continent on Earth.  The Otter is the primary rescue aircraft.  The other plane has been sent to perform search and rescue if the Otter crashes.

The two planes are headed to the Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the South Pole to evacuate an unnamed worker, contracted by Lockheed Martin, with an undisclosed medical condition.  A second person may also be evacuated.  The Amundsen-Scott station currently holds 48 people.

Twin Otter airplane.
Twin Otter airplane.
The medical condition of the worker must be important since there have been only two extractions from the South Pole since 1957.  One was Ron Shemenski’s pancreatitis in 2001 and the other was Barry McCue’s gall bladder removal in 2003.  Jerri Nielsen performed her own biopsy in 1999 for suspected breast cancer and wasn’t picked up until months later by a resupply flight in the spring.  Renee-Nicole Douceur was also left to wait months for a resupply flight after her stroke in 2011.
The sun set at the South Pole on March 20th this year and it won’t be back at all until August.  The pilots will have to navigate in complete darkness.
Map showing the South Pole.
Map showing the South Pole.
The Canadian firm contracted to carry out the rescue mission, Ken Borek, is using this specially equipped Twin Otter airplane that has the ability to fly in temperatures as low as -103ºF.  This was the type of aircraft used in all 3 of the evacuation attempts at the South Pole.
Many agencies will be assisting in this South Pole evacuation.

“The evacuation will require contributions from multiple entities involved in the U.S. Antarctic Program including weather forecasts from the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Center Atlantic; expertise from the University of Texas Medical Branch; and various contributions from ASC, NSF’s Colorado-based Antarctic logistics contractor as well as assistance from other nations,” the National Science Foundation said.

This is a very dangerous mission as these pilots will be completely on thirr own.

“You’re the only plane flying on an entire continent.  You have to be prepared to be totally self-reliant if something goes wrong.” – Sean Louitt, pilot of the 2011 mission told the Washinton Post

To avoid evacuation, workers at the research station are rigorously screened.  

 


Related Articles

Got an opinion? Let us know...