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How you can help light up runways for the Flying Doctor

Date published

28 Jun 2022

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) has launched its Guiding Lights Appeal to purchase specialised lanterns to illuminate outback airstrips across Queensland.

Executive General Manager of Fundraising and Philanthropy Katherine Ash said the RFDS is a 24/7 service, with teams on call day and night to deliver life-saving care to Queenslanders, no matter where they are.

“Our world-class pilots are trained to land in a range of circumstances and fly thousands of kilometres each year,” Katherine said.

“We’re incredibly thankful to the community members who ensure outback airstrips are safe and illuminated whenever and wherever we need to land.

“However, landing an aircraft with only makeshift lighting can present challenges for our pilots when responding to emergencies in the dark of night.”

RFDS Pilot Nick Tully has spent 14 years as a rural pilot navigating difficult landings in some of the country’s most remote locations.

Nick said he recalls one particular landing at night, when several of the LED flares lighting the airstrip failed.

“While all remote station landings at night pose challenges, this retrieval highlighted the importance of adequate resources and airstrip preparation; it was the catalyst for my idea to source a low cost, low maintenance, safe and convenient alternative," Nick said.

Nick extensively researched a more practical alternative and eventually found a solution. So, with the support of the RFDS, he set about making them available to rural and remote locations.

Katherine said it was thanks to Nick that the new way of lighting airstrips now exists.

“These little lanterns are safe and low maintenance and can be seen from the air up to 48 kilometres away,” she said.

“They simply require a match and fuel to activate – items which are often readily available on outback properties.

“Vitally, the devices will also help to minimise the time it takes for our crews to land safely and respond to an emergency.

“From the NSW border, Birdsville, the Far North Cape, and everywhere in between, there are hundreds of private airstrips across Queensland’s outback.

“By donating to our Guiding Lights Appeal, you’ll help us distribute RFDS lantern kits to remote communities and ensure our pilots can safely land at night so the Flying Doctor can continue to bring the finest life-saving care to the furthest corner.”