It’s been four years in the making but the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the South Australian Government and Adelaide Airport Ltd have reached agreement on a new $13 million aeromedical base at the airport.
The project, on which preliminary work has just started to prepare the site, will bring together all South Australia’s aeromedical services on one airport site.
These include the now-separated, airport-based aviation activities and the suburban administration of RFDS Central Operations and the state emergency medical retrieval service, run by the SA Ambulance Service through its MedSTAR road and air services.
MedSTAR’s three rescue helicopters already operate from a base close to the new RFDS site.
The new centre will be built near the south-western end of the airport’s main runway, and house the RFDS’s emergency service facilities and six of its Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.
Operations will include fixed-wing hospital patient transfer and retrieval flights for the SA government.
The RFDS gained a nine-year contract for the government air medical work in 2013, replacing annual extensions since the partnership began in 1991. The long-term contract helped to underwrite the project for the new base.
The chief executive of Central Operations, John Lynch, said the SA Government’s decision to award the long-term contract to the RFDS enabled the organisation to move forward with its investment in strategic projects.
Apart from the new aeromedical base, investments include a new $6 million Pilatus PC12, due in May or June, which will take the Central Operations fleet to 15 PC12s, and upgrades to medical equipment.
Lynch said another four PC12 aircraft would be required from 2016-17 to replace older ones in the present fleet.
The move to build the new Adelaide base, on which negotiations began in 2011 with a proposal to the SA Government for larger premises, follows updating of the Alice Springs and Port Augusta bases.
Lynch said the project would be financed by the RFDS from its own resources, including fund raising. It would gain some income from the sale of its administration building at nearby suburban Mile End but the RFDS would walk away from its present, constrained base in the airport’s general aviation section, relinquishing it to AAL.
Construction work on the new base is expected to begin in March and be completed by the middle of next year.
The medical aviation facilities will include a streamlined patient transfer system, with patient management bays incorporating resuscitation equipment; multiple undercover ambulance bays and two-way tarmac access for RFDS and ambulance crews.
The aviation section will have hangar capacity for up to six aircraft, apron parking for up to nine aircraft, workshop facilities and a maintenance store.
“First and foremost, the new base will enable us to ;provide enhanced patient care,” Lynch said. It also would increase operating efficiency, including faster access to both runways at the airport, and provide a modern workplace for staff and RFDS partners.