Graphic: magnus badger pilot


Date published

11 Aug 2014

Graphic: magnus aircraft

Senior pilot Magnus Badger explains the issues he faces every day at work:

"These airstrips have been just cut out of the ground by a few grater blades," says Magnus, who previously flew Cessna 402s for an air- freight service company and corporate transport for an engineering company.

"The flying is a challenge. You get rung up to go to short strips and little station properties. I've been here 25 years and we're still going to ones I've never been to before."

About 95 per cent of airstrips in the Outback are dirt, and some are as short as 900 metres. These airstrips are for emergency purposes and are not routinely used, so it is up to land owners to keep them in good condition. Before a landing, the owner makes a 'roo run' – driving along the airstrip to clear the area of kangaroos and other animals that could interfere with the airplane.

"The King Air is a really strong aircraft," Magnus says. "It's got a strong undercarriage that's needed when we land in some pretty rough areas, like 900 metre dirt strips. It's fast and it's pressurised – both important in emergency situations when you might have a patient with an eye injury or trauma to the brain or stomach."

Of the South Eastern Section's 18 aircraft, two are King Air 350Cs and the remainder are a variety of B200 and B200C's. The 350s are based in Sydney and perform air-ambulance work on contract for the Ambulance Service of NSW.

David Charlton, General Manager – Operations for the South Eastern Section, said RFDS is scheduled to take delivery later this year of the last King Air B200C to roll off the Beechcraft production line. RFDS receives aircraft with minimal cabin fittings with a cargo door installed, then has an Australian subcontractor fit the airplane with an $1.25m specialised medical interior that includes plumbing, cabinets for medical equipment and interior coverings that can be cleaned and sterilised after each mission.

The key element of this interior is a unique patient handling system that enables a patient to stay on the same stretcher from being picked up until they are in subsequent care. Aircraft also feature VHF, UHF, HF, Satphone and GSM mobile communications and are also fitted with satellite tracking.

All aircraft utilised for aeromedical evacuation and complex clinical inter-hospital transfer feature a hydraulically operated cargo door .

"It's a unique, Australian-developed loading system compatible with ground ambulances," David says. "It's safe and reduces the amount of times a patient might have to move from stretcher to stretcher." This system is compatible with road ambulances and also is available in a rotary wing application.

The average age of the fleet is just under ten years, David says. "When they hit the ten-year mark we seek to refresh the aircraft. We have just converted the first of these aircraft to a 'Multi-Role' configuration which enables them to perform air-ambulance, complex and specialised transfer in addition to clinic transport missions. Some of our aero medical aircraft fly more than 1200hours a year while other clinical aircraft are doing only 400 – this is our way of balancing them out for a 20-year lifecycle."