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LifeFlight’s Townsville team sees record year for lifesaving flights

written by Adam Thorn | January 20, 2021
Winching practice. (RACQ Lifeflight)
Winching practice. (RACQ Lifeflight)

RACQ LifeFlight has revealed its Townsville team provided lifesaving care to 341 people in 2020 – a near 50 per cent increase from 2019.

Overall, the aeromedical charity completed 486 “critical missions” across the state.

“Townsville has become a lot busier, it means that we do a lot of the long distance, high acuity jobs,” said rescue flight nurse Michelle Black.

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The large increase in activity corresponds with the organisation significantly upgrading its aircraft.

In August, Australian Aviation reported how LifeFlight completed a medical fit-out of three former RAAF Challenger 604 jets, which will now join its fleet.

The Queensland aeromedical charity added that the aircraft, which can reach 1,050 kilometres an hour, were formerly tasked with transporting high-profile figures such as prime ministers and members of the royal family.

The organisation said the jets predominantly flew around Australia during their military service, but also had spells flying in the south Pacific, south-east Asia, Middle East and European regions.

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Its fleet now consists of four Challenger 604s, two of which will be based in Brisbane and two in Townsville.

There was also a huge amount of preparation and activity associated with COVID, including adapting its Challenger 604 and Learjet 45 jets to specifically accommodate coronavirus patients.

“Three RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jets were exclusively on standby, if needed, to airlift suspected or confirmed coronavirus and other patients from Queensland regional centres, under a specialised agreement with the state government,” added commercial director Tim McGuire.

And in December, LifeFlight unveiled its new ‘Special Mission’ AW139, which features “forward-looking infra-red” (FLIR) tech to spot heat sources from over water, can hover at 50 feet and “lock on” to moving survivors caught in a tide.

VH-XIA, msn 31590, will be based at the aeromedical helicopter operator’s Archerfield West facility in Brisbane.

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