Kenn Borek Air rescue flights to Antarctica make it to the next stop

Two Canadian planes have made it to Rothera on the Antarctic Peninsula to wait for favourable weather to fly to the South Pole on a medical mission.

Air travel in and out of research station rare from February to October due to extreme cold and darkness

A Twin Otter lands at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station near the South Pole in this file photo. (National Science Foundation)

Two planes from Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air have made it to Rothera on the Antarctic Peninsula to wait for favourable weather to complete a medical mission to Antarctica.

The aircraft have arrived at the British Antarctic Survey station at Rothera, said Peter West with the U.S. National Science Foundation.

He says they will wait at Rothera for favourable weather for a flight to the South Pole.

The two Twin Otter planes left Calgary last Tuesday.

One will stay at the British station for search and rescue purposes while the other will travel 2,400 kilometres further to the Amundsen-Scott Research station at the South Pole.

The foundation says a seasonal employee with Lockheed Martin at the Amundsen-Scott station requires hospitalization and must be evacuated.

West said there is a possibility a second patient may also be flown out of the station once an aircraft arrives "but that decision has not been taken yet."

Details of the patients' medical conditions would not be released due to privacy concerns, West said.

'Coldest and darkest time of the year'

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 harsh winter weather.

In fact, it's only been done twice before in the 60 years the research station has been in operation — once in 2001 and again in 2003, both times by Kenn Borek Air.

"It's the coldest and darkest time of the year," West said.

"It's very, very, challenging."

The foundation says the Twin Otter aircraft that Kenn Borek Air flies are able to operate in extremely low temperatures and can land on skis.

With files from The Canadian Press and Calgary Eyeopener