RFDS provides world-class training facilities

Graphic: RFDS provides world-class training facilities

Flying Doctor provides world-class training facilities

Date published

18 Sep 2023

There is one image everyone thinks of when you say the Royal Flying Doctor Service – it's the red, white and blue of the aircraft coming into land, emergency doctors and nurses rushing to the aid of critically ill and injured people.

While it’s not all of what we do – it is a highly specialised and technical component of the essential life-saving service we have provided to people living in regional, rural and remote Australia for the last 95 years.

Accidents and medical emergencies don’t wait for fair weather. Tragedy can strike in the middle of the night; when it’s storming or foggy – the flight conditions are rarely ideal. The airstrips are often made of packed dirt. Galahs and kangaroos are regular obstacles.

This is why our pilots are amongst the best trained in the world. While the primary focus of the Flying Doctor has been to increase its range of health services and provide those services to more people than ever before, it has also worked to expand its aviation, engineering and training capabilities.

Graphic: Training simulator

There is no better evidence of this than the at the RFDS base in Dubbo, where millions of dollars have been invested in creating world class aviation training facilities and a dramatic expansion of engineering capabilities.

In 2019, the RFDS South Eastern Section took delivery of a world class flight training simulator at its Dubbo Base, the first in the Flying Doctor’s long history to establish an in-house flight training capability.

Made possible through a Gift in Will from a generous supporter, the Level 6 high-fidelity Flight Training Device (FTD) simulator offers state-of-the-art training to pilots and clinicians, enabling them to remain on the cutting edge of innovation in aviation and aeromedical healthcare.

Training simulator

This is a similar level of FTD used by airlines like Qantas, QantasLink, and many international operators for commercial and advanced pilot training. For the RFDS South Eastern Section, where we have (14) King Air aircraft, the FTD can simulate all King Air aircraft systems malfunctions, such as electrical and engine malfunctions on the runway or inflight.

The visual system can also simulate day, night, dawn and dusk scenes, thunderstorms, lightning, blowing snow and sand as well as light to heavy rain, ice, and turbulence.

All conditions our pilots may have to deal with and fly through, with critically ill and vulnerable people on board.

Earlier this year, our pilots were put the test when tasked with two essential retrievals in rural NSW with a major thunderstorm on the horizon. Out in Walgett – a three-hour drive from Dubbo – a patient had been injured when a tractor tyre fell on them. Near Lighting Ridge – a four-hour drive from Dubbo – another patient was deteriorating with abdominal pain.

Our retrieval teams moved swiftly to ensure these two patients could receive the care they needed. Ground logistics sorted; our teams were able to quickly pick up their patients in a race to get back to Dubbo before the thunderstorm hit. But of course, the weather can turn on a dime and both flights were met with an astonishing 100 kilometre per hour winds back to Dubbo.

Our pilots’ extensive training in the simulator ensured they knew how to safely avoid the storm. In joint effort with the RFDS Operations Centre, and after some intense multi-tasking and patience, all crews and patients successfully landed in Dubbo.

This isn’t a typical day for our retrievals team – a typical day doesn’t really exist. One thing is for sure: when the call for help comes in, we need to be ready to answer.

Graphic: Training

The Dubbo FTD flight model software is currently the latest in operation within the south pacific region, and currently the only Proline Fusion King Air flight simulator in the Southern Hemisphere.

It will also forever hold its place in the RFDS’s long and rich history as the first RFDS Federation owned and operated flight simulator – something the South Eastern Section is very proud of.