Sean Loutitt seemingly seeks out opportunities to fly at high latitudes and low temperatures. Born and raised in the far north of Canada, the son of a bush pilot, it was almost inevitable that Sean would eventually follow in his father's footsteps. His informal training began at age one, perched on his mother's lap at the controls of one of his family's aircraft. His apprenticeship continued at age 12 when he signed on as a dock boy for Latham Island Airways in Yellowknife for the princely sum of $2.52 an hour.
Sean continued his journey to the pilot's seat (with only a brief detour for "cars and girls" as he says) and began his pilot training while finishing off his engineering degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. After school he headed home to Yellowknife and signed on with Buffalo Airways flying their amazing array of classic aircraft.
In time, Sean would join the legendary Kenn Borek Airways in Calgary, the firm which was quickly gaining the reputation as the company to call with the most demanding flying missions in some of the remotest and harshest parts of the world. The Arctic and Antarctic were part of the regular routine for them. They made flying in these extreme locations and conditions look easy, but everybody knew that it wasn't. Anything but.
In April of 2001, Sean Loutitt received a call which, given Borek's credentials, seemed almost inevitable at some point. Dr. Ron Shemenski, the only doctor at Amundsen-Scott South Pole base, was desperately ill with a pancreatitis and needed to be evacuated immediately. This required something that had never been done before: a flight to the South Pole in the middle of the Antarctic winter. Extreme weather was virtually guaranteed and likely coupled with not-of-this-world cold and inky darkness unbroken by sunrise for months on end. It was already a mission the US Air Force had turned down.
Could Borek make the trip?
This question kicked off a series of steps which eventually culminated in Loutitt, as chief pilot, along with a dedicated crew making a successful round trip to the South Pole in winter. They picked up Dr. Shemenski and delivered him to the medical care he was going to need to save his life. Equally important for the 55 souls still at South Pole, Borek delivered Shemenski's replacement physician Dr. Betty Carlisle. He would go on to repeat the trip in 2003 under similar circumstances. Borek still makes the trip when called upon to do so, most recently in 2016.
In this episode of The WorkNotWork Show, follow Sean as he tells the story of how the trip came to be, how it went, and how it permanently changed the lives of those living and working at the South Pole. It's a story of real life adventure you simply do not want to miss.
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