A medical-evacuation flight to the South Pole by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air is one step closer to completion.
The U.S. National Science Foundation said in a release that the aircraft successfully made it to Rothera, a British station in the Antarctic. The flight then left the Rothera Station early Tuesday morning, flying another 2,400 kilometres to the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where a seasonal employee with Lockheed Martin requires hospitalization and must be evacuated.
Officials are deciding whether a second patient needs to be brought out as well, but they don’t give any details on the person or condition.
The foundation said the flight is expected to arrive at 5 p.m. ET. on Tuesday.
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 the extreme cold and darkness.
The foundation says the aircraft that Kenn Borek Air flies are able to operate in extremely low temperatures and are able to land on skis. As there is no tarmac runway at the South Pole, it says the aircraft must land in total darkness on compacted snow.
Kenn Borek provides contractual logistical support to the Antarctic Program, according to the foundation, and conducted similar evacuations in 2001 and 2003.
At Rothera, the aircrews will prepare the aircraft, including equipping them with skis for a landing on snow and ice at the Pole.
The foundation says one plane will fly to the Pole and retrieve the sick worker, while the other will remain at Rothera to provide search-and-rescue capability if needed.
– With files from Reid Fiest