Winter Medivac

Two Kenn Borek Air Twin Otters successfully flew out a Raytheon Polar Services worker from South Pole Station in late September 2003.

The American, one of 58 scientists and support staff, was suffering from a gastrointestinal complaint and NSF had been monitoring his condition for several weeks using a telemedicine link between the South Pole doctor, Will Silva, and US medical specialists.

The two Twin Otters flew from Canada to Punta Arenas, Chile, in preparation for a possible polar flight. Kenn Borek Air Ltd of Alberta supplies Twin Otters under contract to Raytheon Polar Services in support of the American Antarctic Program. The firm specializes in flying to remote parts of the world under difficult conditions.

Although the first major flights of the season to McMurdo occur at the end of September, flights to the pole have to wait until late October or early November because the low temperatures effect the landing hydraulics of the larger planes.

When the go ahead was finally given by NSF, the two Twin Otters flew to Rothera (Antarctic Peninsula), over 2000 km from the Pole. Here the crew had to wait nearly a week because of blowing snow, but were eventually able to continue on to South Pole Station.

On Saturday 13 September they landed in darkness and very strong winds, with temperatures of -560C. They took off again the following day with the sick worker, flying first to Chile, where the patient was put on a flight back to the US.

The pilots on the rescue mission were Sean Loutitt and Brian Crocker, with Kevin Riehl as engineer. In April 2001 Loutitt became the first pilot to fly to the South Pole in total darkness when he rescued American Dr. Ronald Shemenski, who had a life-threatening pancreatic illness and needed surgery.

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