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Norwegian Air Force F-16 transports medical equipment, saves life

The F-16 high-tailed it 280 miles to save a dying patient in its role as emergency cargo plane.

This post is appearing on Autoblog Military, Autoblog's sub-site dedicated to the vehicles, aircraft and ships of the world's armed forces.

Moving organs and vital medical equipment from one hospital to another is a time-sensitive enterprise. Lives literally depend on a timely arrival, which is why major hospitals have their own helicopter and almost all hospitals have their own helipad. But what if a chopper, or even a private jet, isn't fast enough? In Norway, you recruit a local F-16.

A patient at a hospital in Bodø, Norway needed a procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. ECMO takes stress off the cardiopulmonary system by cycling a patient's blood through an artificial lung. The lung sucks up the carbon dioxide and then deposits re-oxygenated red blood cells in the bloodstream (thanks Wikipedia!). It's not an easy procedure, but it can give the cardiopulmonary system time to rest and heal. The problem, in this case, is that Bodø didn't have the machine to perform the procedure. But St. Olaf Hospital in Trondheim, a city 280 miles south, did.

St. Olaf, recognizing the need for a speedy delivery, asked out to the Royal Norwegian Air Force. A pair of RNAF F-16s were prepping for take off at a nearby base when they were pressed into service. All the Air Force asked was how big the machine was, St. Olaf's head doc told AFP. Once that was sorted out, RNAF loaded the ECMO machine into one of the F-16s, and the two jets burned sky from Trondheim to Bodø (which has its own RNAF base).

And oh, did they burn sky. According to The Guardian, Air Squadron Chief Borge Kleppe told the local paper that a normal, 280-mile flight translates to a 35-minute journey. But this time, "the pilot stepped on it," according to Kleppe, and shaved ten minutes off the journey. That's an average speed of 672 miles per hour, compared to a normal journey's 475-mph average.

The RNAF made the flight early this month, but just revealed its role. According to The Daily Mail, the patient survived his ordeal.

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