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RFDS propels PC-12 fleet into the future
RFDS head of engineering Andy Lewis says the new five-blade propeller system on the PC-12 will maximise aircraft performance and increase patient comfort with less vibration to be expected during flight.
Five blades are better than four, according to RFDS.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Western Australia is boosting the performance of its PC-12 turboprop aircraft fleet by reconfiguring and modernising its propeller system. The conversion from aluminium four-blade propellers to five-blade propellers made out of carbon-fibre composite is a first for RFDS aircraft anywhere across Australia.

The Pilatus-built PC-12 turboprop aircraft were repurposed to serve as flying intensive care units and introduced into Western Australian skies by the RFDS in 2001.

RFDS head of engineering Andy Lewis says the new propeller system will maximise aircraft performance and increase patient comfort with less vibrations to be expected during flight: “The new propellers are lighter, stronger, require less maintenance and provide more torque, which enables the aircraft to fly better and ultimately saves on fuel.”

RFDS Western Operations has an in-house team of avionic and airframe engineers, technical record keepers, maintenance planners and logistics experts based at Jandakot airport who ensure its fleet is maintained to the highest standard. The team is responsible for the maintenance of every part on every aircraft.

More than 800 south east individuals and businesses have donated almost $400,000 cash and in-kind services to the Royal Flying Doctor Service's first patient transfer facility in regional South Australia, located at Mount Gambier. The facility has now opened its doors.

RFDS crews land twice a day in South Australia's south east region, and at least once a day at Mount Gambier airport, to airlift residents and tourists to one of Adelaide's major hospitals for life-saving care or specialist medical treatment. To improve patient comfort and care, the RFDS purchased an existing aircraft hangar on site in late 2019, refurbishing half the structure into an indoor patient care facility and retaining the other half as a traditional hangar for aircraft parking.

The converted hangar will now assist the crews of both RFDS and SAAS MedSTAR, South Australia’s emergency medical retrieval service, to stabilise a deteriorating patient more effectively prior to flight or enable the transfers of patients into the aircraft under cover and protected from extremes of weather.

The significant infrastructure investment by the RFDS has been supported by the SA Ambulance contribution of an ambulance on site which will enable RFDS and SAAS MedSTAR teams to improve response times and jointly deliver a better patient experience. Among the local contributors, businesses Barry Maney Group and Mount Gambier & District Community Bank (Bendigo Bank) have recently made major donations to help the RFDS to complete the project.

RFDS Central Operations chief executive Tony Vaughan ASM says the project has been strongly backed by locals from the outset. “This facility is a landmark, long-term asset for the community, fully funded by the Flying Doctor through the support of the RFDS Mount Gambier & District Support Group and many passionate south east groups, businesses and individuals,” he reveals. “We look forward to inviting all donors to a launch event once COVID-19 restrictions permit to thank the community in person for their generous support.”

The launch of the Mount Gambier facility follows the recent upgrade of RFDS' patient transfer area at its Meekatharra base in Western Australia.

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