Graphic: RFDS Trades Assistant Dave Rose
When COVID-19 hit Australian shores in early 2020, Dave Rose was working as a ramping agent for an international airline.
As commercial aviation shuddered to a standstill, he found himself alongside thousands of other workers looking for new opportunities.
Dave decided to follow his passion for planes and all things mechanical and, taking a shot in the dark, sent his resume to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
A fortnight later, he set foot in the Adelaide Base hangar as the RFDS engineering team’s newest Trades Assistant.
“I was very surprised, but over the moon,” he said.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to work for the Flying Doctor.”
Before COVID-19 triggered a jobs crisis, Dave was no stranger to an industry downturn.
After spending years working in the automotive business with Mitsubishi and Holden, the shutters eventually came down on Holden’s South Australian factory in 2017.
But Dave was pragmatic and launched a dog washing service to make ends meet.
These days, he has swapped pups for planes.
As part of his role at the Flying Doctor, Dave is responsible for Fleet Presentation of RFDS’s Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24 aircraft – flying intensive care units with capacity for two stretchered patients and a medical team of three (the larger RFDS Medi-Jet24 is set up for three stretchered patients and two medical teams of four).
Fleet Presentation involves external cleaning of the aircraft to remove grime accumulated during take-off, flight and landing, as well as hospital-grade internal cleaning.
“Cleaning is an integral part of our operation – anyone venturing into that plane has to feel assured it’s clean, it’s sterile and ready for the next day’s work,” he said.
“As these are air ambulances, you can’t allow any bugs or germs to accumulate.”
Ironically, the impact of COVID-19 means Dave’s work days are now busier than ever.
Throughout 2021 in South Australia and the Northern Territory, the Flying Doctor airlifted more than 1,200 patients under COVID-19 protocols and evacuated more than 260 close contacts from outback and isolated communities.
Upon returning to base, these aircraft undergo a mandatory “COVID clean”, in which Dave dons full protective equipment and follows a meticulous process to ensure it’s safe for the next flight’s passengers.
As the clean could be needed at any time of day or night, Dave remains on 24/7 call.
“I start at the cockpit, go right down to the back of aircraft and then back to the cockpit again, which includes every surface,” he said.
“A clean with the preparation, the physical work and then packing up, takes about three hours on average.”
When asked of the biggest difference between cleaning Airedales and aircraft, Dave put it simply – he no longer has bad hair days.
“There’s a lot less fur, that’s for sure,” he laughed.
“The thing I love about my job is I’m working with a great bunch of people who are professionals in their own field – the people who work here are like family to me.