The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Western Australia is improving the flying performance of its single-engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft by transitioning its fleet to Hartzell's 105-inch diameter five-blade composite propellers from Hartzell four-blade aluminum propellers.
RFDS Western Operations uses its aircraft for medical emergencies and patient transfers between medical facilities, travelling eight million kilometres across Western Australia over the last year to reach 9,012 patients. The RFDS' 24-hour aeromedical service retrieves patients from some of the most remote corners of Western Australia and its pilots have experience landing on roads or dirt airstrips of all kinds.
“We are delighted with the support received for this fleet conversion, from both West Coast Propellers, Hartzell's recommended service facility here in Western Australia, and from the Hartzell factory in the United States,” says RFDS Western Operations managing engineer Andy Lewis. “We are currently installing the five-blade Hartzell props on two of our aircraft at our maintenance base in Jandakot, and are already flying three PC-12s with the five-blade propellers installed at the Pilatus factory. We have ordered three more props to date with the intention to eventually transition our entire fleet of 16 PC-12s.
“The new Hartzell propellers are lighter, stronger, require less maintenance and provide more torque, which enables the aircraft to fly better and ultimately save on fuel.” He goes on to say that the new propeller system will maximise aircraft performance and increase patient comfort with less vibration expected during flight.
“We are exceedingly happy to help the RFDS and represent Hartzell Propeller with this five-blade upgrade that effectively takes the PC-12 aircraft to the next level of performance, reliability and comfort,” comments Stephen Ashley of West Coast Propellers. “It is a privilege to be involved with such an exciting product, being put into play for the end user.”
In addition to the 16 PC-12 turboprops, the RFDS Western Operations fleet also includes two Pilatus PC-24 Rio Tinto Life Flight jets. Each aircraft is fully equipped with purpose-built aeromedical equipment and serve as intensive care units in the sky. The service has five strategically located regional bases in Western Australia to ensure a far-reaching geographical impact and prompt aeromedical response.