Arctic trip saves life: Stratton crew performs daring air rescue

If that were to happen, the safety of those on board, let alone the mission, were at serious risk.

"A $52 million plane is lost and hopefully we get out with our lives," Lafrance said of a crack in the runway.

All of the crewmembers needed to be sharp in order for the mission to succeed, the crew explained, and a lot of teamwork was involved.

"Everyone here is highly experienced. They put us together because they thought it was the best mix," said Lafrance.

Lecours said a lot of factors come into play when flying a mission of this magnitude.

"This is the longest leg I've ever flown in a Herc[ules]," Lecours said.

A Hercules has never made the trip from Davis Camp to Australia.

Among some of the responsibilities the crew has to deal with are checking fuel levels, ensuring safe landing sites and maintaining the status of all four engines.

"The odd places we were going, you have to worry about the next step," Lecours said.

He said winds can affect the flight path, and often picking up a tail-wind to save fuel could mean going a longer distance. The crew used the East Indian Ocean pressure trough to help get them to the landing site.

"If we flew in a straight line, we would have ran ourselves out of gas," Lecours said.

They spent 13 hours on the ground at Davis Camp, where the crew needed to rest and refuel. They used 55, 92-gallon barrels that were set up and ready to go by the Davis crew, Bernasconi said. He also said the medical technicians that accompanied the crew, eight in total, spent some time stabilizing Rooke before the 10-hour flight to Australia.

During the flight back, the crew kept a close eye on Rooke.

The crew's engineer, Senior Master Sgt. Mark Olena of Guilderland, said another important factor in the rescue flight was cabin air-pressure. Olena said it had to be monitored strictly, and the plane's elevation had to be limited to 4,000 feet to help control Rooke's breathing.

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