September 17, 2019 07:18:10
Queensland’s Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is trading training for loyalty in a new program to bring in more pilots.
- A pilot shortage means the Royal Flying Doctor Service is having trouble finding suitable aeromedical pilots
- Aeromedical pilots are required to have logged 4,000 flying hours, half of that as a pilot-in-command
- The RFDS hopes to attract those pilots not interested in flying for big airlines
Their aviation mentoring program is giving young pilots an opportunity to upskill and gain the extremely high number of flight hours needed to become aeromedical pilots.
RFDS aeromedical pilots are required to have completed 4,000 flying hours, with 2,000 as pilot-in-command, including 200 hours as a pilot-in-command at night.
Mount Isa senior base pilot Dave Keavy said the high number of flying hours required to work with the RFDS, paired with a global pilot shortage, made finding pilots difficult.
“With the current pilot shortage, [the RFDS] are finding it very difficult to find people who have the sort of hours that they need,” he said.
“Generally [pilots], when they’ve got those sort of hours, they’ve been sucked up by the airlines.”
Mr Keavy has been a pilot for 37 years and said he fitted the mould for the usual aeromedical pilot.
“The average RFDS pilot is older, usually in their mid 40s, so I’m on the far end of that,” he said.
“Generally it is the guys who haven’t had aspirations with the airlines and have been working in regional Australia for quite some time.
“They’re the sort of guys [or women] we look for to [move] into our program.”
Looking for a change of course
The program has given 35-year-old Cameron Whatley, who grew up near Miles, the one job he had always coveted with the RFDS.
Now living in Cloncurry and working from the Mount Isa RFDS base, Mr Whatley is one of two pilots in Queensland taking part in the program; the other is Cairns-based Andrew Hotham.
“I’ve been flying since I was approximately 14,” he said.
“There was a trial introductory flight at the local airport in Chinchilla and I’ve been flying ever since.”
After working for a pastoral company in northern Australia, Mr Whatley wanted to move his career up to flying bigger aircraft.
He said the only immediate options were either commercial operations or working for the airlines, which he did not want to do.
“I like the type of flying that the RFDS does,” he said.
“I had put a couple of applications in before, but this one came up through their website and I came through on it.”
‘Giving back’ to aviation says CEO
Once Mr Whatley has completed the required hours and achieved the skills to become an aeromedical pilot, he will be expected to continue with the RFDS in that role for between three and five years.
RFDS Queensland CEO Meredith Staib said the program was as much about attracting and hiring quality pilots as it was about moving the industry forward.
“I hold a firm belief that everyone in the aviation industry has an obligation to give back to the sector, and that’s what we’re doing with the program pilots,” she said.
“Realistically, the RFDS is only a small player in the global aviation market but undeniably we make a huge difference to individuals and communities right across the state.
“By developing a program such as this, we can ensure we can continue to provide our world-class aeromedical service for generations to come.”
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September 17, 2019 06:47:07
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