N.Zealand plane makes Antarctic mercy dash

A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane evacuated a sick American man from Antarctica Tuesday.

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2010, 13:22 PM IST

Wellington: A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane evacuated a sick American man from Antarctica Tuesday after making a nearly 4,000-kilometre (2,500-mile) mercy dash, officials said.

The Orion aircraft picked up the man after landing at the US McMurdo base in Antarctica in temperatures of minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit) and was heading back to Christchurch, Antarctica New Zealand said.

A fierce Antarctic blizzard had prevented earlier attempts to reach the man, said Lou Sanson, the chief executive of Antarctica New Zealand, which handles the country`s activities on the continent.
The American was in a serious but stable condition, Sanson said. Details of the man`s illness have not been revealed.

Sanson paid tribute to the air force crew for making the landing in extreme conditions.
"It is a testament to the skill and training of the Orion crew that they were able to get in and complete the mission during a short weather window," he said.
The Orion made an initial attempt to reach McMurdo at dawn on Sunday but returned six hours later because bad weather had closed the airstrip at the US base.It is due to arrive in Christchurch at about 9pm (0900GMT), when the man will be transferred to a local hospital.

Bureau Report