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Newest RFDS aircraft takes to the sky

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations (RFDS) will proudly unveil the newest member of its fleet in Port Hedland today.

More than $5 million was raised to purchase the Pilatus PC12 aeromedical aircraft thanks to the assistance of The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (CME) and 22 Western Australian resource and primary industry companies who provided critical funding to the RFDS at the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. Additional funding was also received from the Australian Government for the new aircraft to boost the capability of the RFDS in response to the pandemic.

Since arriving in Western Australia from the Pilatus factory in Switzerland, the new aircraft has been equipped with the signature RFDS aeromedical equipment including ventilators, stretchers and patient monitors.

The new aircraft will transport an estimated 500 patients each year and will be fundamental to the RFDS meeting the expected increase in demand for its service as WA moves into the next phase of its battle with COVID-19.  

In Western Australia, the RFDS responds to an average of 27 patients each day. RFDS Western Operations CEO Rebecca Tomkinson said the new aircraft will help the service stay ‘response ready’ for all Western Australians.

“As we all continue to prepare for the evolving challenges of COVID-19, having additional capability to meet the increasingly diverse needs in regional Western Australia is of upmost importance,” Rebecca said.

“The RFDS remains Western Australia’s only aeromedical provider for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients and this new aircraft is a great all-rounder in terms of capacity, amenity, speed, range and performance. To date, we have transported 134 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. 

“We sincerely thank The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA, and the 22 Western Australian companies including BHP, FMG, Roy Hill and Rio Tinto who generously contributed.”  

CME Chief Executive Paul Everingham said the WA mining and resources sector was delighted to give back to the communities in which it operates.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of people is always our sector’s number one priority – and that commitment extends to communities right around WA,” Paul said.

“The reality is that our member company operations can only be successful through close collaboration with those communities.

“CME and those member companies are delighted to be part of the maiden journey of this new plane, which will deliver much-needed and time-critical medical services to regional areas of WA, including mining and resources operations.”

The new aircraft will begin its new life in WA tomorrow with a ‘thank you’ tour of Pilbara mine sites.