THE communities of South and Central Australia will soon be cared for 24/7 by the region’s first permanently configured aeromedical jet following the purchase of a state-of-the-art Pilatus PC-24 aircraft by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
The RFDS aeromedical jet will almost halve the flying time of long-haul patient evacuations, as well as provide the capacity to transfer three stretchered patients and clinical staff to any capital city in the country without refueling.
“The RFDS PC-24 will enable the RFDS to reach patients in need in all corners of South Australia from Adelaide in less than 90 minutes, including major regional cities like Mt Gambier in just 30 minutes and Moomba in the Cooper Basin in 60 minutes,” says John Lynch, CEO of RFDS Central Operations.
“At least every other day the RFDS will conduct the emergency evacuation of a critically-ill patient from Alice Springs Hospital to Adelaide or Darwin for specialist care – the RFDS PC-24 will reduce this flight to less than two hours,” Mr Lynch said.
To be manufactured in Switzerland, the $10 million medically-equipped jet is scheduled for delivery in 2017/18. RFDS Central Operations has exercised its ‘launch customer’ option to secure one Pilatus PC-24 jet aircraft, and has retained the option to secure a second due for delivery in 2018/19.
The first RFDS PC-24 jet will service both SA the NT then, on arrival of the second RFDS PC-24, one aeromedical jet will be based at Alice Springs and the other in Adelaide to provide enhanced coverage throughout the north-south corridor of Australia.
The RFDS conducts an average of 24 aeromedical flights through South and Central Australia every day – this daily activity swells to over 100 throughout Australia.
RFDS Central Operations has utilised the Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft exclusively for it operations in South Australia and the Northern Territory since 1995 – it will continue to operate its four medically-equipped PC-12 aircraft in Adelaide, three in Port Augusta and four in Alice Springs.
The market release of the new state-of-the-art Pilatus PC-24 jet will prove a ‘game changer’ for the Flying Doctor according to Mr Lynch.
“The new PC-24 has the versatility and practicality of the PC-12 with the cabin capacity and high performance of a jet. It is certified for our single-pilot operation, and is designed to take-off and land on the harsh dirt airstrips we use daily in the outback,” Mr Lynch said.
SA Minister for Health, the Hon. Jack Snelling, said the State Government applauded the RFDS’ leadership and ongoing investment in the health and well-being of all South Australians – city and country alike.
“The RFDS aeromedical jet will be the only permanently configured aeromedical jet in South Australia with the capacity to carry three stretcher patients and up to three clinical staff at once,” Minister Snelling said.
“The RFDS is a key partner in our State’s best practice service model for retrieval and inter-hospital patient transfer services that delivers the right people with the right skill-set to the right patients at the right time,” he said.
NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said the RFDS played a critical role in caring for Territorians in need, and the NT Government was thrilled with the expansion of services by the RFDS.
“The addition of the RFDS PC-24 to the Territory’s disaster response resources will enhance the NT’s capacity to respond quickly and effectively to mass casualty incidents or natural disasters,” he said.
The purchase of the RFDS PC-24 jet will be funded by fundraising and donations as part of the RFDS’ ongoing capital-raising program for the replacement of aircraft, medical equipment and upgrades to operational facilities.
Operational costs of the RFDS PC-24 will be incorporated into the RFDS’ funding agreements with the SA and NT Governments for provision of fixed-wing inter-hospital transfer and aeromedical retrieval services in each jurisdiction.
Oscar Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus Aircraft Limited, said the company was proud that RFDS Central Operations will operate its new flagship PC-24 Super Versatile Jet in the future – after 20 years of successful operation of the PC-12.
“I would like to express my very sincere thanks to the RFDS for its confidence in our company and in the PC-24,” Mr Schwenk said.
Source: Royal Flying Doctor’s Service
Image Source: An artist’s impression of an RFDS PC-24 Aeromedical during an outback landing
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.