The aeromedical capabilities of Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) are set to be bolstered through the acquisition of four new Beechcraft King Air 360CHW turboprop aircraft, with the option to purchase a further two. The new aircraft will complement the existing fleet of 20 King Air aircraft which operate across eight operational bases in Queensland. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2021 and continue through 2023.
In 2020, the fleet travelled over 7.4 million kilometres, landing at 224 locations and amassing more than 21,500 flight hours. RFDS (Queensland Section) CEO Meredith Staib says the current fleet includes 16 Beechcraft King Air B200 series and four King Air B350CHW.
“It is vital that the RFDS, one of the world's largest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisations, remains future fit as we near 100 years of operation,” she explains. “Late last year we entered into a new 10-year inter-hospital transfer partnership with the Queensland Government, ensuring another decade of aeromedical care for the state. The Beechcraft King Air 360 aircraft will form a key part of our 10-year aircraft replacement strategy, which will ultimately ensure we can continue to deliver world-class aeromedical retrievals and healthcare to regional, rural and remote Queenslanders.”
RFDS (Queensland Section) head of flying operations Shane Lawrey says the updated turboprop aircraft features technological advancements in the cockpit, as well as enhancements to patient comfort: “The autothrottle automatically manages engine power from the take-off roll, through the climb, cruise, descent, go-around and landing phases of flight. This enhancement reduces pilot workload and supports them to prevent over-speed or under-speed, over-temp and over-torque conditions. Another update in the cockpit is the new digital pressurisation controller, which automatically schedules cabin pressurisation during both climb and descent, reducing pilot workload and increasing overall patient comfort.”
Textron VP of special missions sales Bob Gibbs adds: “We are honoured that the RFDS, in evaluating its choices for its fleet, continues to choose the Beechcraft King Air as the platform of choice for its crucial operations. The King Air is the world leader in twin-turboprop special missions because of the aircraft's unmatched capabilities and reliability. Continuing to be a trusted supplier for emergency services in Australia is a testament to the King Air's performance when every minute matters.”
Staib goes on to say that the RFDS would take delivery of the first two B360 aircraft late 2021 with the aim of commissioning the craft early 2022: “We will receive the other two aircraft late 2022 and have an option to purchase an additional two B360 aircraft. Our highly trained and skilled aviation staff are looking forward to experiencing the technology advances offered with the B360, including improved performance and efficiency, ultimately improving runway access. I am sure our medical crews and patients will also enjoy the enhanced flying experience.”