Rescue plane leaves Antarctica after picking up patient

LONDON. August 9. KAZINFORM A dramatic medical evacuation mission played out Thursday as an aircraft picked up a patient from a research station in Antarctica, landing on a ice runway during a narrow window of "twilight" in the continent's dark winter, Kazinform has learned  from CNN.

While officials apparently found a weather break, nature offered a chilly reception at McMurdo Station, where temperatures Thursday were -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius), according to the U.S. Antarctic Program.

An Australian medical team, asked by the United States to assist, flew on an A319 Airbus from Christchurch, New Zealand. The team arrived at McMurdo Station about 1:15 p.m. Thursday New Zealand time (9:15 p.m. ET Wednesday) to pick up the unidentified patient, said Patti Lucas, spokeswoman for the Australian Antarctic Division.

The plane didn't stay on the ground for long: it was back in the air by around 2:30 p.m. New Zealand time, said Debbie Wing, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Science Foundation, which oversees the facility. It is expected to arrive back in Christchurch a little after 6 p.m.

The patient, believed to be an American citizen, was in stable condition before the plane's arrival, Wing said.

The mission to the hub of the U.S. Antarctic Program was occurring during the Antarctic winter, when there is virtually no daylight for six months. No U.S. aircraft were in position to respond quickly.

Wing said she could not say whether the person's condition is life-threatening. But the patient requires medical attention beyond what can be provided by the medical team at the research facility, which Wing said is "like a portable hospital unit." Corrective surgery may be required.

There is currently "some twilight at midday," which may help the pilot see when making a landing at McMurdo, which has one of the few runways on the continent that can accommodate aircraft with wheels, Wing said.


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