RFDS Western Operations pilot Jake Walsh marks flying milestone

Date published

22 Jul 2020
Jake Walsh in PC-24 jet cockpit

Captain Jake Walsh has become WA's third RFDS pilot to achieve 500 hours flying time on the first-of-type aeromedical Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jet.  

Jake joins RFDS pilots Trevor Thrale and Drazen Tolic in reaching this milestone. 

Based in Broome, Jake has served five years with the Flying Doctor in WA. He is experienced flying both the PC-12 turboprop aircraft and the Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jet aircraft.  

We caught up with Jake to hear what life is like working for the Flying Doctor across WA and spending time in the cockpit of a PC-24 jet. 

Q. What opportunities did the PC-24 jet's integration to RFDS Western Operations present to you in your career as a pilot? 

The transition to the PC-24 was an incredible opportunity and for me, it meant I could continue to do the interesting retrieval work but with an aircraft that is more challenging to operate. 

Q. What does achieving this milestone mean to you? 

The hours logged in the jet are valuable to me since it is multi-engine command time with the majority of hours clocked at night time as well. 

I love the difference that you can make by operating the jet efficiently. Over the course of a typical day, you can save a thousand pounds of fuel and a bit of time on the airframe compared to the flight plan - and that makes a big difference over time. 

Landscape shot

Q. What are some of your favourite landscapes across WA to fly over? 

We get to see a lot of great landscapes but one my favourites is a combination of flying past Carnarvon at sunset. The low light on the scarred pattern in the middle of nowhere is beautiful. 

Q. Has there been a memorable experience you've encountered while flying the jet? 

One memorable experience was on a night flight in Derby recently. A wallaby hopped out into the touchdown zone right as we were about to land. 

We did a go around and probably gave the wallaby a fright as the engines spooled back up to take-off power. 

The American simulator instructor for my initial type in Texas thought it was funny to say there was a kangaroo on the runway any time that he would want us to do a low level go-around in places like Memphis during a snow blizzard. 

So as it turns out, this specific situation was one I was most trained to respond and react to. 


Q. How long have you served with the Flying Doctor in WA?

I've been here a little over five years. I was based in Port Hedland on the PC-12 for four years and flew 2500 hours. During that time, I've relieved at other bases including a week of night shifts in Meekatharra, a month in Kalgoorlie, a month in Derby, a month in Jandakot and the rest of the time at home in Port Hedland. 

Since starting on the PC-24, I've relieved out of Jandakot for 10 months and spent five months in Broome. The best flying by far was the month in Derby flying the PC-12. 

This was because a lot of the work was doing primary retrievals and we would be the first ones to arrive to a patient in very remote areas on challenging runways. 

Q. What's next? 

Next up, 1000 hours! Apologies to the medical crews who have to put up with me! 

Q. What do you enjoy getting up to when you're not working? 

I enjoy bike riding, swimming and cooking!