RFDS upgrade for Alice Springs

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 3, 2010
The RFDS Central Section is replacing five older PC-12s. (Andrew McLaughlin)
The RFDS Central Section is replacing five older PC-12s. (Andrew McLaughlin)

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is undertaking a $2 million upgrade of its Alice Springs aeromedical base in the Northern Territory, reports Chris Milne.

The work includes redevelopment of a recently acquired fourth hangar at the town’s airport, which will be used as a new maintenance facility. The other three hangars are being upgraded to provide improved patient management and better office space for RFDS staff.

The chief executive of RFDS Central Operations, John Lynch, said the work was expected to be completed by the end of August, bringing the Alice Springs base up to the same standard as the service’s other major base at Port Augusta.

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The RFDS also is planning  to upgrade its Alice Springs tourist centre, which receives more than 65,000 visitors a year.

Lynch said plans to “reinvigorate” the centre were expected to be put to the Central Operations board in August.

Meanwhile, the service expects to put the first of its new Pilatus PC-12 aircraft into service by the end of July.

The first of five new PC-12s arrived in Adelaide from Switzerland in March for its medical fit-out and work has begun on the recently arrived second aircraft. Lynch said further deliveries were scheduled for July, September and October.

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Deployment of the aircraft was not yet decided but, initially, the first two would operate from the Adelaide Airport base.

They are replacing five older Pilatus PC-12s acquired in 1995. Each has clocked up more than 15,000 hours now.

In a bid to spread its operations further, RFDS Central Operations has joined the tender process for the Northern Territory Government’s ‘Top End’ contract, at present held by Pearl Aviation, which is owned by Darwin based Paspaley Pearling.

Under the existing contract, Pearl provides aviation services and the NT Health Department provides medical staff. However, the new requirement calls for a fully-integrated service including aircraft, pilots, doctors and nurses, and engineering support.

This follows the Cornish Report, which called for a new, centralised approach, with a fully integrated aeromedical service,  and an upgrade in aircraft.

The report by J Cornish and Associates said the present ageing Pearl air ambulance aircraft did not meet other aeromedical standards in Australia and suffered above-normal unserviceability standards.

The Cornish recommendations also covered a need for a new aeromedical base at Darwin Airport, including hangar space for two aircraft.

It is understood 11 organisations and aviation firms have tendered for the new contract.

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