RFDS Guiding Lights Appeal 2023

Help our flying doctors reach those in need

Date published

04 May 2023

Support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) Guiding Lights Appeal to deliver emergency equipment to regional, rural and remote communities across Queensland.

For families who live in outback Queensland, more than two hours away from a hospital, the RFDS is their first point of call in an emergency.

However, organising an emergency aeromedical retrieval from a remote property in the middle of the night can have its own challenges, especially if unprepared.

To help our flying doctors get to those in need at any time, RFDS (Queensland Section) has launched the Guiding Lights Appeal to deliver emergency airstrip lantern kits, medical chests and equipment to regional, rural and remote communities across the state.

Mother-of-three Heidi Mackenzie knows too well how important a medical chest and lantern kit can be in a crisis and has had to light an emergency runway using diesel-drenched toilet rolls to help the RFDS land at her sheep and cattle station in Plevna Downs.

RFDS plane landing at night.

Heidi assisted with an emergency retrieval in 2021 when a staff member was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, and on a separate occasion, was also airlifted out herself with her 12-day-old baby.

“The lanterns are much easier to use as it takes one step out of the process when you are under pressure,” Mrs Mackenzie said.

“Toilet rolls only last an hour or so, but the lanterns can stay lit for up to 24 hours which gives everyone more time to get the patient stable and transported safely for takeoff without having to relight the airstrip.

“The lanterns are the most reliable way to light an airstrip without electricity.”

Cindy Banks and her family

Cindy Banks recently received an RFDS Lantern Kit on their property at Tilbooroo Station, 135km northwest of Cunnamulla, for peace of mind.

“I think it’s almost inevitable that when you have kids that something is going to happen, and for some reason, things always happen at night,” Mrs Banks said.

“We nearly had to have our two-year-old daughter flown out at night, and the whole logistics of which airstrip we were going to use and how we were going to light it up was stressful.

“Not having to think about that in time-critical situations is amazing.”

Across Queensland, there are around 1200 airstrips currently registered with the RFDS, many of which are still lit by unreliable battery-powered LED lights or diesel-drenched toilet rolls in an emergency.

That’s why RFDS Senior Pilot Nick Tully shared his bright idea – diesel-lit lanterns.

“The idea was born a few years ago after an emergency retrieval near Betoota, where several of the battery-powered LED lights used on the airstrip failed,” Mr Tully said.

“Station owners were struggling to keep the LED lights maintained, and of course, as soon as you forget about them, that’s when you need them, and they don’t work.

Nick Tully with the lanterns.

“After some research, we decided to go back to sets of kerosene lights which is where the RFDS Lantern Kits came from.

“We figured if we could offer diesel lights, there’s always diesel and a match on a property.”

The specialised diesel lanterns can be used by station owners to manually light a 1200m runway for our flying doctors to land and take off safely overnight.

The lanterns are supplied in kits with easy-to-follow instructions and include a list of common questions that the RFDS pilot might ask before and after landing.

To help ensure remote communities are prepared for the unexpected, we are calling for the kind spirit of the community to make a donation.

Together we can light up and maintain airstrips right across Queensland.