Merimbula Air Services will be celebrating Women of Aviation Worldwide Week by holding an Open Day on Saturday March 11 and offering half price “pilot experience flights” for women and girls during the week of 6th – 12th March.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS) Victoria has proudly announced the recipients of its inaugural Flying Doctor Favourite Country Bakery awards.
These awards recognise the bakeries that Flying Doctor team members most enjoy visiting while driving across the state of Victoria to transport patients and deliver a multitude of primary health care services.
“Many people know the Flying Doctor for our rescue missions in the Outback, but here in Victoria, we don’t just take people to health care: we bring health care to people,” says Scott Chapman, RFDS Victoria Chief Executive. “We embed ourselves and our services in Victorian country towns, enabling people to access care in their own community. By doing this, we become part of rural Victorian communities, which means our teams have become familiar faces at many bakeries across the state–and a valued source of information regarding the whereabouts of Victoria’s best pies and baked treats.”
In addition to acknowledging the bakeries that keep Flying Doctor crews fuelled and well fed while out on the road, the purpose of these awards is to encourage people to undertake a country bakery road trip of their own and visit Victoria’s many rural and remote communities for themselves.
“Our state has some incredibly diverse and unique communities, and while our people have the privilege of living and working across these areas, we want to inspire more people to hit the road and visit these country towns, meet their incredible locals and, of course, try their delicious pies for themselves,” says Mr Chapman.
Ten years ago, Andrew (pictured left) stepped backwards onto what appeared to be solid ground, to have a mineshaft open up beneath him.
Andrew was retrieved by the RFDS who provided him with in-flight medical care while on the way to Perth to access specialist care. “I take a couple of steps back, and I’m turning around and talking to guys. All right, once we’ve done this, we’ll go and I took a step backward, and the ground opened up”, said Andrew. “And, yeah, I fell, all I remember there is, like, scrambling at the Earth with my hands, and I couldn’t get the purchase. Everything crumbled, and then it collapsed.”
As a way of giving back, Andrew and his mate Bosko have carefully curated a children’s book ‘Dwayne’s First Flight’ to help raise vital funds for the RFDS.
In the book, Dwayne has an important mission, but he’s never flown in the dark. Throughout the story, he overcomes fears, believes in himself, and makes new friends along the way.
Listen to the full story shared by Andrew himself who considers it to be a life-altering experience for him and his family.
Last month saw Bonza Australia’s second aircraft, named ‘Bazza’, touching down at its Sunshine Coast base. It joins ‘Shazza’ as part of the Bonza’s new fleet.
The arrival came as a specialised Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) team continued to review processes and documents to ensure Bonza meets the required aviation safety standards to obtain an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from CASA.
The process airlines go through to obtain a domestic AOC is complex and unique to each operator.
Factors include the size of the network, the number and type of aircraft involved as well as the level and maintenance of crew training.
While the CASA and Bonza teams work through the application process, here is some information about how CASA ensures that any new and existing operator flies safely in our skies.
Operators conducting commercial operations in Australia must hold an AOC. This is a permission granted under the Civil Aviation Act. AOCs are issued for a specified period and initially for 1 year. An AOC will cover a specific commercial purpose, such as air transport operations.
We treat the assessment of an AOC application as a project. We have a formal and structured method for managing all activities along with an agreed schedule and a definition of the roles and responsibilities of CASA staff.
The AOC certification process consists of 4 phases.
Phase 1: enquiry
This is where we help the applicant understand the process and requirements to make an application for an AOC There may be a number of pre-application meetings for initial issue AOCs and complex applications.
Phase 2: application
This is where the applicant will submit application forms and documentation to CASA. If suitable, the application will be formally accepted by CASA and it is at this point that the assessment process formally begins. A detailed estimate of fees will be provided to the applicant which must be paid prior to the assessment starting.
Phase 3: assessment
This is where all supporting documentation is assessed to determine if the applicant meets the legislative safety requirements. The first phase takes the form of a technical assessment of the documentation that describes how the applicant will operate safely, and to make sure Bonza meets the required aviation safety standards. This evaluation includes areas such as the applicant’s ‘exposition’ (operating manual) outlining how the airline will comply with legislative safety requirements. This includes:
safety management systems
pilot and cabin crew training systems.
During the documentation assessment, inspectors evaluate for completeness, adequacy, quality and adherence to the legislation requirements. We may also conduct a financial viability assessment at this stage, particularly where operators are planning passenger-carrying scheduled services.
The applicant also has a range of responsibilities in this process, including to make staff and facilities available to us to verify matters, providing us with information and evidence to show that all risks have been identified and mitigated.
Verification and testing is done to ensure that the applicant has the facilities, processes, and personnel to be able to comply with their exposition (operating manuals). We may also need to assess specific standards and procedures to grant the applicant certain approvals. We will conduct inspections of their proposed operations, facilities, aircraft and aerodromes. For large organisations, this might require a number of visits. Proving flights may also be required to complete an assessment.
Phase 4: certification
Where we are satisfied that the applicant is safe and meets the requirements, we issue an AOC.
We conduct regular checks and surveillance on operators once they have an AOC.
We may cancel, suspend or vary the AOC if we are no longer satisfied that the holder meets the legislative safety requirements.
More than 5,700 eager Australians participated in Oceans to Outback, the RFDS’s very first national fundraising fitness challenge.
The Flying Doctor invited participants to walk, run or cycle during the month of October, while raising funds to help the Flying Doctor deliver life-saving care across the country.
As they progressed, participants were guided on a virtual journey across Australia, stopping at eight featured RFDS locations along the way.
Together over the month-long adventure, participants travelled over 420,000 kilometres and raised more than $1.3 million.
Meet some of the participants
Twelve-year-old Port Lincoln local Clay Bertram, raised a whopping $12,000, dedicating his fundraising campaign to his late Uncle Max, who passed away in September last year.
“Fundraising for the RFDS is so important to me because the RFDS practically saved his life 26 years ago,” he said.
“He was so grateful for the RFDS and my family and I are so thankful that we got to spend more time with him.”
University of Adelaide veterinary students Maddie, Gaby, Jen and Jess, aka “Team Fantastic Fur”, raised more than $6,000.
In April this year, Maddie’s younger sister Leiella was airlifted by the RFDS for life-saving treatment after a riding accident.
In gratitude of the care Leiella received, Maddie and her friends worked overtime during the month of October, racking up kilometres and asking for donations around campus.
“We like to think this is a big thank you for your help with Leiella,” Kimberly, Leiella’s mum said.
“The girls are also getting out and enjoying the fresh air which is fantastic for their mental health – so it really is a win-win.”
Nadia Kotska was one many RFDS employees in South Australia and the Northern Territory taking on the month-long challenge.
“I’m working as an RFDS Health Services Assistant in Marree whilst finishing my final year of nursing. I had to take time off for clinical placements, so decided to join Oceans to Outback to still contribute to the RFDS while I was away,” Nadia said.
“I have incredibly supportive family and friends who have enjoyed seeing my remote adventures, and who all genuinely want to support what the RFDS does.”
The Flying Doctor thanks everyone for their phenomenal fundraising efforts.
You have until the end of November if you would like to donate to Oceans to Outback!
The RFDS was awarded a Special Commendation at the 2022 SA Health Supplier Awards (Innovation Category) for the integration of a groundbreaking portable flight simulator into its operations.
The FlightSafety International ‘MissionFit’ simulator, which was introduced to the RFDS Adelaide Base at the start of 2022, is specially configured to simulate the RFDS Pilatus PC-12, of which there are 19 in the aeromedical fleet in SA and NT.
The simulator enables pilots to navigate normal and abnormal scenarios and adverse weather conditions, while completing all of the necessary checks and procedures in a real flight.
RFDS Central Operations Head of Training and Checking, Matthew Cosier, said the MissionFit simulator is a new type of technology that will benefit the training of both new and experienced PC-12 pilots.
“When commercial pilots join the Flying Doctor, they need to have a minimum of 2,500 flying hours with experience flying in rural and remote Australia – but generally they never flown a PC-12 aircraft,” he said.
“Firstly, we have to put them through Ground School and then weeks of rigorous training with a pilot instructor before they’re signed off to fly on their own.
“The MissionFit will allow us to train pilots to a new level of standard, in particular handling the system failures that we can’t simulate when we’re flying in the real aircraft.
With emergency retrievals required day and night, pilots must be adept at handling all scenarios and weather conditions.”
Photo: RFDS’s Matthew Cosier with the MissionFit simulator.
RFDS Central Operations Line Pilot, Heather Ford, flies around 50 hours each month airlifting patients across Central Australia.
She said the simulator puts pilots under pressure, making the recreation of emergencies as real as possible.
“Having the MissionFit makes the simulation as real as it possibly can be without any risk to the crew or the aircraft – we’ll be put through certain scenarios so that we can recognise and deal with them before they become an emergency,” Ms Ford said.
“Every decision we make is based on the experience we have. The more situations you expose pilots to, the better the pilot is going to be.”
Each year, the Flying Doctor airlifts more than 9,000 patients in the SA and NT – equivalent to 25 missions per day.
Having this interactive device relieves more aircraft from training duties, increasing the RFDS’s capacity to provide vital 24/7 aeromedical services to all corners of Central Australia.
Pilots can train at any time without worrying about aircraft availability, air traffic congestion or poor weather conditions from hindering their mandatory training.
“As an RFDS Pilot we have to successfully pass four checks a year. These checks range between two and three hours each – around half of which can be conducted in the MissionFit simulator,” Ms Ford said.
“By taking all the possible mandatory training we can out of a real aircraft and into the simulator, it means more of the RFDS fleet is available to continue to save lives.”
The purchase of the MissionFit simulator was partly funded by a generous Gift in Will made by the late Peter Griffiths Smith.
Photo: RFDS Pilot Heather Ford flies around 50 hours each month airlifting patients across Central Australia.
There are also the added economic and environmental benefits of the simulator – the financial savings made on fuel due to reduced actual flight time, as well as lower emissions and carbon footprint.
But at the end of the day, the biggest beneficiary will be those from rural and remote communities who turn to the Flying Doctor for help.
“The people who are going to benefit the most are patients of the RFDS,” Mr Cosier said.
“Our pilots will be able to deliver a new level of safety as we continue to support healthier and happier Australians no matter where they live, work or play.”
MissionFit is a CASA-approved flight simulation training device and in the future may be able to simulate the RFDS Medi-Jet 24.
Photo: The flight simulator in action with RFDS Pilot Andrew Smith.
We are incredibly lucky to have amazing supporters but few start as young as Neroli Moreno, who made her first donation as a three-month-old.
Neroli’s mum Chantel and dad Tino knew they wanted to set a good example for their adorable new addition by signing her up as a regular giver to the RFDS.
“We want to teach her about generosity, charity, giving and helping others as she grows up. We hope she can be proud in the future of her donation history,” Chantel said.
Having grown up on a farm in the Nambucca Valley, Chantel said she understood the importance of knowing the Flying Doctor was there to help those who weren’t just down the road from a hospital.
“Farms, mines, and rural communities do not have the same facilities that inner city hospitals do. The RFDS gives those people an equal chance of getting lifesaving treatment. To be able to offer lifesaving medical assistance to those in need when they are so isolated is truly a necessity and they shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Chantel said.
“We would love to show Neroli about how important the RFDS is and what they do for the people in remote Australian communities. We want to teach her about being generous and helping others and how her donations make a difference and could save the life of a girl just like her.”
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) will extend its Mental Health and Wellbeing Service with the launch of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Announced today, the Flying Doctor’s EAP allows organisations to offer counselling and wellbeing consultations to their employees, which are all provided under complete anonymity and free of charge for the individual.
The first organisation to enlist the new RFDS EAP is fellow Queensland country-minded institution, AgForce.
RFDS (Queensland Section) Manager Central West and Outback Mental Health Doctor Tim Driscoll said the EAP was designed to help bridge the gap in the accessibility of counselling and wellbeing services for those living and working outside urban centres.
“We all lead busy lives, which can make it difficult to find time for our health and wellbeing –particularly for those living or working in rural and remote areas where people often wait for things to get a lot worse before seeking help,” Dr Driscoll said.
“A conversation with a trained professional can help tackle common daily struggles – such as trouble sleeping, feeling down or long-term stress – helping to address issues and get support before things get out of control.”
In the past year alone, the RFDS provided more than 12,000 mental health consultations across the state’s regional, rural and remote communities. The extension of these services to target employee health and wellbeing via workplaces is set to provide an additional avenue to increase the accessibility and uptake across Queensland.
RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said EAPs provide benefits for both employees and employers.
“Being able to work with corporate partners can help amplify the accessibility of our services, while also playing an important preventative role in the wellbeing of individuals across Queensland,” Ms Staib said.
“As well as the personal benefits for the individual obtaining support, an EAP promotes higher staff engagement, reduces absenteeism, reduces stress, and increases productivity as well as overall performance.”
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the organisation was delighted to have the RFDS design a bespoke EAP program for its 40-strong team of employees located across Queensland.
“As an organisation, AgForce is committed to providing our team members with all the resources they need to thrive both in the workplace, and in life outside of it,” Mr Guerin said.
“The trust we have in the RFDS as an experienced and qualified team is of utmost importance, but it’s also a great comfort to know that their experienced clinicians are deeply ingrained in regional communities and can truly understand the unique challenges our team may face.”
This photo of 22-year-old Jess was taken one hour before the moment she almost died. She looks happy and relaxed—a picture of health. It’s almost impossible to believe what happened next.
Jess went into cardiac arrest while attending a local rugby match. For 10 minutes, her heart stopped. For 22 minutes, bystanders did CPR in a desperate attempt to bring her back, before she was urgently taken to Gladstone Hospital by a QAS ambulance.
Jess’s mum Trudy’s phone rang at around 6.30pm.“I was told Jess had been brought into Gladstone Hospital and she was very sick,” remembers Trudy.
It was simply impossible for Trudy to understand. Jess was young, physically active and strong.
“At first, the doctor told me they were flying her to Brisbane, but then they called back to say they couldn’t stabilise her. I needed to come straight to Gladstone Hospital. They were basically telling me to come and say my goodbyes.”
As Trudy was on her way to Gladstone, every minute felt like an eternity. “I just wanted to get to my child,” she says.
At the same time, one of our aeromedical crews had been tasked by Retrieval Services Queensland and was flying up from our Brisbane Base.