GLENVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10)– Famed Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being treated in New Zealand after he fell ill while visiting the South Pole.
The National Science Foundation called on the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Glenville for the medical evacuation.
A medevac mission isn’t uncommon for them. These guys are the single point provider with this capability to the north and south. It’s because their unit is the only one in the world with ski equipped cargo planes, making them on mission 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.
“[It] can be a harrowing experience in really bad weather,” Lieutenant Colnel Daivd Panzera said.
Panzera has been on medical evacuations like the mission requested on Thursday for 86-year-old Buzz Aldrin. The famed astronaut was one of the first men to walk on the moon.
He recently tweeted about his upcoming trip to Antarctica, descending to the South Pole for its “sultry” summer season: Between -50 degrees to as warm as -25 at the South Pole. That’s a summer day.
Aldrin’s condition deteriorated, according to the tourism firm White Desert.
The National Science Foundation requested a medevac for precaution. The 109th Airlift Wing at the Air National Guard Base in Glenville is the only unit in the world with ski equipped LC-130 cargo planes.
Already in Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze, crews make the two hour and 45 minute flight from McMurdo station to Aldrin’s aide, landing on this Polar Plateau can be a dangerous mission.
”It’s a handful, it’s a handful,” Panzera said. “You’ll land on a 13 knot crosswind and start drifting to the side, you’ve got to compensate for that. You’ll use engines, you’ll use flight controls and you’ll compensate to make that safe.”
Panzera says he has been on and off the ground at the South Pole station in under ten minutes. By 1 p.m. local time, crews landed in New Zealand where Aldrin will stay overnight for observation.
Panzera says they have at least one medevac a year, but transporting Aldrin, well that speaks for itself.
“A hero to both the Air Force and to the United States at the elevated level of Col. Buzz Aldrin, you bet it’s exciting,” Panzera said.