Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Royal Flying Doctor Service Pilatus PC-24 to halve some flight times

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has bought itself a $12 million present to celebrate its 90th birthday – and it promises to cut flying time for some emergencies by almost half.

The single-engine Pilatus PC-24 is being built in Switzerland and is expected to arrive at the service’s Adelaide Airport base later this year in time for the anniversary celebrations.

The 7m-long aircraft is designed to travel at up to 787km/h, has a travel range of about 3600km and reaches a top altitude of 45,000ft.

It eclipses the RFDS’s existing 4m-long PC-12 turboprop, which is currently the top model in its fleet with a top speed of 518km/h and travel range of 2889km in a single flight.

The service’s central operations chief executive John Lynch said the new plane would cut travel time when transporting patients.

In SA alone, the RFDS conducts an average of 15 medical flights every day and treats one patient every 20 minutes.

“(The Pilatus PC-24) will be our first dedicated aero-medical twin-engine jet and will have the capacity to cover longer ranges with up to three stretcher patients,” Mr. Lynch said.

“We believe if it adds to the quality outcome for patients who receive that level of care then it’s an appropriate investment. And all of this comes on top of our new Adelaide base, which was opened two years ago.”

Mr. Lynch said a flight from Adelaide to Alice Springs would take about three hours in a PC-12, which cost about $7 million.

But the new PC-24 can make the 1500km trip in just under two hours. Adelaide is receiving one plane another two will be based in WA.

The RFDS has used the PC-12 model for its SA and Northern Territory operations for the past 20 years.

Four of its medically equipped models will remain in use at Adelaide Airport.

Mr Lynch said the secret to the 90-year success of the RFDS was that it continued to “meet a need”.

“Once John Flynn learned of the lack of available health services in particular remote locations, his vision was to create a mantle of safety for all those who lived, worked or played in the remote areas,” Mr Lynch said.

“So our birth was a vision that became a reality in 1928 and then two days later that first flight to Julia Creek (in Queensland). Its other success is having available an emergency service that can transfer patients needing a higher level of care from one location to another.”

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