RFDS and SAPOL make history with first 'highway landing' of aeromedical jet in Australia

RFDS and SAPOL make history with first 'highway landing' of aeromedical jet in Australia

Date published

28 Apr 2023

On Thursday 27 April 2023, the RFDS performed the first ‘highway landing’ of an aeromedical jet on Australian soil.

The RFDS Medi-Jet 24 touches down on the Stuart Highway
Photo: The RFDS Medi-Jet 24 touches down on the Stuart Highway.

The milestone landing of the RFDS Medi-Jet 24 on the Stuart Highway in Far North SA was performed as part of a joint training exercise conducted by the RFDS and South Australia Police (SAPOL).

Responding to a fictitious motor vehicle accident scenario, the scheduled exercise comprised two components – a desktop simulation of the activation and communications procedures between SAPOL, RFDS and State Emergency Service (SES), followed by the temporary closure of the Stuart Highway by local authorities to enable the landing of RFDS and SAPOL aircraft.

The RFDS Medi-Jet 24 and SAPOL Pilatus PC12 aircraft landed on the Traeger Emergency Roadstrip near Glendambo, a designated 1200-metre landing strip incorporated into the Stuart Highway (600 kilometres north of Adelaide) designed specifically for the RFDS and other airborne emergency services.

The world’s first purpose-built aeromedical jet, the RFDS Medi-Jet 24, has the capacity to transport three stretchered patients (and crew) and is ideal when responding to multiple-trauma incidents such as a bus, multi-vehicle or workplace accidents.

The $15 million RFDS Medi-Jet 24, purchased using fundraising and donations from the community, has been used on sealed and remote unsealed airstrips but not yet used to land on a highway roadstrip

“Roadstrip landings are logistically complex, which require multi-agency collaboration and seamless coordination and communication between emergency services in the air and the ground to perform quickly and safely," RFDS SA/NT Head of Flight Operations, Damien Heath said.

“Today’s collaboration with SAPOL and local emergency service partners ensures we are all response ready for those in the community when they need it most, not just with our turbo-prop aircraft but now also with our jet aircraft.”

RFDS, SES and SAPOL at Traeger Roadstrip Stuart Highway
Photo: RFDS SA/NT Head of Flight Operations Damien Heath, SES Volunteer Petta and SAPOL Sergeant Amanda Francis during the exercise.

Today’s exercise was carried out with the cooperation of local authorities and transporters, who were informed ahead of time, with the highway temporarily closed under SAPOL protocols to ensure the safety of all involved.

The RFDS and SAPOL would like to extend thanks to commuters for their patience and understanding during the short road closure.

“Today’s exercise was a great example of all the emergency services in South Australia coming together as a team to practice their roles and responsibilities to provide the best response for the community should they get in trouble in a remote part of the state," SAPOL Senior Sergeant Angus McFarlane said.

“I appreciate the public has had a short wait while we closed the highway to ensure that both aircraft landed safely and their patience is greatly appreciated."

SA’s second highway roadstrip, Chadwick Emergency Roadstrip, is located on the Eyre Highway near the SA-WA border. Chadwick was used last month when the RFDS landed one of its turbo-prop (PC12) aircraft to airlift a critically-injured man following a single motor vehicle accident. RFDS has used its turbo-prop aircraft to land on highway roadstrips for decades.

The RFDS and SAPOL are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all South Australians. By working together and conducting exercises such as this, the agencies are better equipped to handle emergency situations and to provide the best possible care to those in need.

RFDS, SAPOL and SES at Traeger Roadstrip