Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Flying Ayers Rock to Broome, Australia

By Jack

On January 7, we made one of the shortest flights of this whole trip with the 653 NM (750 SM) flight from Ayers Rock/YAYE to Broome/YBRM, Australia.  Weather for the flight was good with mainly clear skies the whole way.

Carolyn made a video of the departure from Ayers Rock which clearly shows the red tint of the soil.

Most all the route was over the Great Sandy Desert which is essentially uninhabited. This chart was on the wall at the RFDS office we visited in Broome (more on that later)...

The chart had this sobering note over the area of the Great Sandy Desert...

The highlight of this leg of the journey was in Broome where the RFDS has a base. The kind folks at RFDS offered us a tour of the facility and, unexpectedly, offered us space in their hangar and basically acted as our ground handler.

John (a senior pilot at the Broome base) was our guide and provided us much hospitality and a great insight into the daily operations of the RFDS.  The Western Division of RFDS operates a fleet of about 15 specially modified PC-12 aircraft (like our plane) and, as of a couple of weeks ago, a brand new Pilatus PC-24 jet.  John gave us a tour of one of their PC-12s (the PC-24 was at another base) highlighting its specialized medical equipment.

One of their newer PC-12s with the latest paint scheme...

While Josh and I were fascinated by the aviation side of the operation (especially some of the harsh environments in which they operate their PC-12s), in some respects the medical side of RFDS is even more innovative and interesting. Each RFDS base has full-time physicians and nurses on-staff. While they do often get on the plane and go to a patient, a great deal of the medical work is also done remotely. The article beginning on page 9 of this RFDS magazine describes the work of the physician and nursing staff. 

The medical staff also is trained to handle all sorts of issues in the field using the airplane as their mobile hospital. For example, they have a designed infant incubator specially designed to be secured and used in the PC-12...

Suffice it to say RFDS is a very impressive organization and I am not aware of anything quite like it elsewhere.  POPA (the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association) is looking forward to having two RFDS pilots speak at the annual convention in June. It should be a fascinating presentation. 

John even helped us with the only "maintenance" issue of the trip so far...one of the fittings on the handrail on the main entry door came loose. 

Obviously not a major problem (we just did not use the handrail for a couple of days), but it was bugging me. A quick call to my service center in Canada (Levaero Aviation) and we found out that while at first glance this fitting appears to screw together, it is actually just secured with epoxy. John secured the proper epoxy for us and we had it fixed in just a few minutes. 

After a very enjoyable few hours getting to know more about RFDS and fixing the handrail, we headed to a nearby hotel for our quick one-night stay. We would depart early the next morning (January 8) for the second longest flight of the trip so far...the 1,614 NM (1,856 SM) flight from Broome to the challenging Seleter Airport/WSSL in Singapore. The arrival at Seletar was one of the most "interesting" approaches on the trip so far, but more about that in the next report.

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