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Plane makes medical pickup in Antarctic winter


An Australian Airbus A319 made a rare flight to and from Antarctica last week to pick up a patient who needed a greater level of medical care than the remote research station could provide. Flights to and from Antarctica are extremely rare this time of year; the lack of daylight, severe winter storms and low temperatures that can cause jet fuel to gel make landing or taking off again a treacherous undertaking. But officials needed to evacuate the patient, whose medical condition was not disclosed, since McMurdo Research Station only has about 70 researchers during the winter months and limited medical facilities. During the summer, the station's staff swells to as many as 1,500 people, with regular flights from Antarctica to several continents. Last week's flight landed during a brief period of twilight -- the sun doesn't fully rise in that part of Antarctica this time of year -- and took off again about an hour later. While there was a break in the weather during the landing, the temperature was -13 Fahrenheit.