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Giant Hercules saves tiny premature twins

  • Story Highlights
  • Premature twins airlifted to hospital from remote Scottish island in bad weather
  • Hercules transport plane drafted in from southern England to pick up the babies
  • Boy and girl are stable after dramatic flight, hospital says
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's Royal Air Force scrambled a huge military transport plane to a remote island off the coast of Scotland to save twin babies born two months prematurely.

The operation began Sunday night when the hospital in Stornoway, in the Western Isles, requested a specialist pediatric team from Glasgow, Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman John Morton told CNN.

Initially, a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was stripped to the bone to make room for the medical evacuation team and the two babies in incubators.

But wild weather hitting the island, off Scotland's northwest coast, forced controllers at Aeronautical Rescue Coordination to send a C-130 Hercules transport plane from the southern England, hundreds of miles away.

"We stripped out the inside of a Navy Sea King helicopter -- pulled out all the seats and equipment" to make room for the medical team and its equipment, and to bring down the weight of the aircraft, said Michael Mulford, a spokesman for British military search-and-rescue.

The Hercules could better handle the winds and is capable of carrying 42,000 pounds (more than 19,000 kg) in cargo and normally used for missions like dropping relief aid, Mulford said.

"They would be flying into heavy winds," he said, adding the Sea King would have been near its weight limit with four medical staff and "one ton of equipment," including two incubators.

"The Herc came from Lyneham in Wiltshire. It flew 500 miles straight into Stornoway," he said. "It landed and waited until the two ambulances arrived, each with an incubator and baby."

Three hours later, the plane lifted off again for the final leg of its flight, a 40-minute trip to Glasgow, where the Scottish Ambulance Service met it with a specially designed neo-natal transport unit early Monday.

The whole operation took just under 12 hours and involved "quite probably 40 or 50 people working flat out for many hours," Mulford said.

"It was a lot of effort by a lot of people," he said. "But no one complains about flying through some very difficult weather. It was a chance at giving some very newborn babies a chance at life."

The twins -- a boy and a girl who have not been identified due to patient-confidentiality laws -- are in stable condition, a National Health Service spokeswoman told CNN.

Major Oliver Luneau, a pilot with Armee de l'Air (ALA), the French air force, who is serving with the RAF on an exchange program, told the UK Press Association he was proud to have been involved in the rescue.

A spokeswoman for the Western Isles Health Board told PA the mother, who had been around 27 weeks pregnant, was in "good health" following a normal delivery.

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