Catriona Saunders

Graphic: Catriona Saunders

Navigating new heights: our new Townsville Senior Base Pilot

Date published

12 Jan 2024

Newly appointed Townsville Senior Base Pilot, Catriona Saunders, has the unique qualities required to excel as a RFDS pilot, and she absolutely loves it!

Flying for the RFDS requires unique qualifications, skills and experience, including 4,000 hours of flying time, 200 hours of which have to be at night as Pilot in Command.

Catriona was ready for a fresh challenge after nearly eight years of flying small aircraft to service outback communities and stations in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Her application to join the RFDS in Alice Springs in 2019 was successful, and she remained there until late 2022.

At the start of this year, she relocated to Queensland and was appointed Senior Base Pilot in Townsville.

“I am really excited to be taking up the position of Senior Base Pilot,” she said.

“Working as a RFDS pilot is a job like no other, and while my new role comes with increased administrative responsibilities, I still have the privilege of flying the King Air B350 and B360 aeromedical aircraft and ensuring that Queenslanders have access to the best medical care.

“There is no other job for a pilot that requires such adaptability or offers so much diversity. You are part of the operational crew, so it is often ‘all hands on deck’ and you rarely know in advance where you will be flying to, whether it is a major airport, regional city or remote community, what weather conditions you will encounter, or what type of job you are going to.

“It is certainly never boring and while you are flying single-pilot and are ultimately responsible for your own decisions – and the consequences – you are really just a small cog in a big wheel and you have the support and backing of a highly skilled and dedicated team of professionals.

“That is pretty unique and a reminder of the core value that unites everyone in the RFDS – we all know, for the patient we are picking up, this might be the worst day of their life, but our job is to make that day a little better and brighter. We never lose sight of that.”