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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland
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Business

11 November, 2020

RFDS lights-up Outback airstrips

THE ROYAL Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is going back to basics by assisting Outback property owners light their airstrips to ensure they are suitably lit in circumstances where night landings are required.

By Hamish Hart

Charleville Senior Base Pilot, Nick Tully, and flight standards manager, Warren Schmidt, have developed kerosene lantern kits which will aid pilots land in remote areas obscured by darkness.

Funded through the Gavin Simpson Bursary Innovation Award, an accolade awarded to RFDS staff who have the intention of developing innovative projects to assist patients, the kerosene lanterns can be witnessed up to 30 miles away when compared to solar lights typically utilised on airstrips.

Mr Tully said the kits would not only be a better alternative, but would also be a more cost-effective option when compared to traditional methods of lighting.

“The idea came from a retrieval we did out near Betoota last year,” Mr Tully said. “The property owner had portable lights. However, the batteries weren’t being replaced regularly, so when we were flying in to carry out the retrieval, they were being caught short at a really critical time.

“We’ve looked at quotes to light a 1000-metre airstrip with solar lights, and you can be looking at up to $26,000, plus the upkeep of batteries and general maintenance on the lights can be another $3,000 to $5,000 every five years.

“That’s a lot of money for something that might only be used once every five to 10 years. Our kits are likely to be closer to $600 to $800.”

The kits will include 25 lights; 10 for each side of the runway, two at the end of the airstrip, and one spare, as well as instructions on how to properly light lanterns for property owners unfamiliar on how to use a match and fuel.

“These lanterns are something that’s been historically tried and tested,” Mr Tully said.

“Our current prototypes just need to go through some basic testing in different weather conditions and then, depending on demand, we should be able to sell them directly through our bases or on our RFDS field days.”

The RFDS light kits are in the final stages of development.


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