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Medical Rescue Plane Reaches South Pole Station

by Phil Helsel /
A Twin Otter aircraft flies out of the South Pole on a previous medical flight in 2003.Jason Medley / National Science Foundation - AP

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A plane has reached a South Pole research station to remove a sick research team crew member, a National Science Foundation official said.

The plane reached the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Polar Outreach Program Coordinator Peter West said Tuesday afternoon Eastern time.

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The mission was launched after a crew member of the research team became ill and "a level of medical care that is unavailable at the station," the NSF said.

The patient was not identified. It’s possible a second patient could be removed as well, the foundation said, but did not elaborate on that patient’s condition.

Related: Medical Rescue Mission From South Pole Is Daunting Task

The Kenn Borek Air Ltd. twin-engine Twin Otter aircraft left British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Station earlier Tuesday. The Rothera station is around 1,500 miles away from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The aircraft was equipped with skis for a landing on snow and ice.

"The plane will now remain at the Pole for roughly 10 hours to allow the aircrew to rest," West said in a statement. "The crew will then assess weather conditions at both Pole and the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Station before flying back to Rothera."

The patient is a seasonal worker employed through a Lockheed Martin Antarctic support contract, the foundation said. The NSF did not release more details of the medical condition prompting the evacuation, citing medical privacy rules.

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