Airport upgrade to give Flying Doctors proper facility
THE days of pilots sleeping underneath their planes on the Gladstone Airport tarmac are over, with a Royal Flying Doctor Service station set to become operational by the end of the month.
Planning for the transfer station has been in the pipeline since February last year after reported sightings of pilots resting under their planes due to a lack of facilities.
Gladstone Airport Corporation chief executive officer Colin Fort is hopeful the RFDS station will be operational by the end of the month with a tentative official opening pencilled in for August 27.
"All the pavements have been marked and set out for the aircraft to operate into the new facility. The facility itself has been brought up to speed with new toilets... There's a pilot rest area as well.
"There's still a little bit of work to be done - they want to put new furniture in there including a lounge and desk so the pilots can do their flight planning and briefings.
"It will provide an area where aircraft dedicated to the RFDS can operate from.
"There'll be a hangar there so an ambulance can pull in under cover day or night.
"The rest area for pilots and crews will have an amenities block that has a non-ambulant toilet so people on a gurney can be wheeled in."
Gladstone Regional Council, owner of the airport, has contributed $108,000 for the facility upgrade.
More than 11,000 patients were flown by the RFDS in Queensland during 2016/17.
Every year the RFDS visits around 85 remote communities in Queensland, providing health services including GP, child and maternal, mental and oral health to more than 95,000 people.
Mr Fort said the soon-to-be-completed facility will offer a greater level of patient care.
"At the moment when they do a transfer of a patient there's no covered area so they're exposed to the weather, there's no facilities for the pilots and nurses that are on board the aircraft," he said.
"To move them out of that area it's a lot safer and more functional for the crews to operate from as well as the ambulance."
Meanwhile, Mr Fort has expressed disappointment that Gladstone was overlooked for the Qantas Pilot Academy.
More than 60 regional cities put forward a proposal, with nine regional cities, including Toowoomba and Mackay, making the shortlist.
However Mr Fort says the airport will use its unsuccessful bid as a learning experience.
"We've got all that information compiled so we've got a prospectus, and Qantas have made their choice, but that doesn't stop us from looking at something similar down the track. You never know what will happen going forward."