Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
It stands to reason that in the outback, vehicles tend to get a very harsh workout, and sometimes don't necessarily get the kind of loving attention that they would in suburbia.... This is an interesting vehicle from Glendambo. As you can see the windscreen wipers have failed and been removed long ago, so now when (if) it rains, the driver has to resort to a more "manual" system.
Also note his refrigerator in the back. I checked to see that it wasn't plugged in and operating. I thought this chap had a drinking problem, but may have solved the difficulty of keeping his tinnies cold! No such luck - he was just transporting it to another house in the local area.
I flew a clinic run yesterday up to William Creek (just north of the centre of South Australia. On the way, cruising at 23,000 feet, we noticed that there was a very large dust cloud covering the entire area and extending up to 10,000 feet. This made for an interesting approach to William Creek, which is just a small airstrip with a pub and two or three houses next to it. The airstrip is only gravel and sand, and is the same colour as the surrounding terrain - mostly red - so it is sometimes a little difficult to spot from a distance.
Yesterday, we flew right over it at 500 feet and still missed seeing it initially! I had to come back around and overfly the strip a little lower to be able to spot it, and then circle to land, keeping it in sight. This of course gave us a VERY tight circuit and when I got to final, I could see the threshold of the runway from 200 feet, but not the other end! Not an approach for the faint of heart.... We almost had to go home without landing, but managed to get down. Whis photo was taken just after we had shut down and you can see the conditions for yourself. When we left two hours later, it had improved somewhat, but still wasn't good enough to be a normal (visual) flight. We always fly on instrument flight plans so it was ok and legal, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily pleasant.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Here is the inside of the PC12. The pictures show the stretchers and equipment racks in the rear of the aircraft. Note that the stretchers are actually on dollies so they can be wheeled around at will. The floor has been specially designed to be flat and easy to clean. If any blood gets between the joints, it MUST be cleaned properly and as soon as possible because it is reportedly very corrosive. Never knew that did you? I certainly didn't.
The third photo shows the stretcher loading device. Basically this is an electrically driven (by worm gear) platform that allows us to raise and lower the stretcher and patient without all the manhandling that would normally be needed. This saves our backs, and reduces the opportunity for further patient injury etc. Great little system, though very expensive as it is properly certified for use in aircraft and of course is made of expensive components, milled from solid blocks of metal. It has to be examined to be appreciated.
This is one of the salt lakes just out of Maralinga in central South Australia. In the 50's, this was the scene of the A-Bomb tests, and for a long time, nobody was allowed in the area for fear of radiation poisoning.
Now, you wouldn't know anything had happened there.
Just a quick photo of a takeoff from the airstrip at Mintabie after a clinic. As you can see, there is plenty of red dust in the area, and it can be quite a problem, depending on how much wind there is at the time and which way you turn. You don't want to turn into your own dust unless you have to.....
Saturday, November 04, 2006
This is the northern part of the Flinders Ranges, on the way into Balcanoona airstrip for a clinic. We only saw two people that day (one was VERY pregnant), but it can sometimes be quite busy I'm told. This is the only regular medical attention folks in these areas can get.
Just a little indicator of some of the airstrips we need to use occasionally. This is the airstrip at Dulkaninna homestead. Check out the rocks! This is called Gibber and is the common stone found around much of the area. As you can see, it pretty much covers everything, and there's not much feed for the animals in the area. Also a bit tough on props and engines....
Just thought you'd all like to see how the dentist works in the outback.... this is at a bush airstrip north east of Port Augusta, called Blinman. The patient is having some adjustments made to his upper plate, and the dentist is using, of all things, MY LEATHERMAN! Needless to say, the work was somewhat unplanned, with the dentist only there originally to observe and talk with locals, but the opportunity presented itself, and I couldn't resist getting a photo or three.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Well, here's the Pilatus PC12. It's my job to fly this wonderful aeroplane and I'm having a great time...
It carries two stretcher patients and up to two sitting patients or escorts, along with the Flight Nurse and of course the pilot (me). We generally only have one or two patients at any one time, and a doctor rarely accompanies us, so it is basically up to me to fly and the nurse to look after what happens in the rear of the aircraft.
We have some excitement at times, operating in all kinds of weather, day or night, and into some pretty inhospitable terrain. However, many of the flights are kind of routine in nature, with hospital transfers being quite common. Occasional emergency flights also see us retrieving patients from all around South Australia and bringing them back to Adelaide or Port Augusta. The kind of emergencies can vary from car accidents, falls, burns and bites, to pregnancies and mental problems. We sometimes carry police escorts to keep the "not so pleasant" patients under control.
On long flights we cruise around 24-28,000' but sometimes we have to stay low (14,000') to keep the cabin altitude at sea level. This is typical for patients who have head injuries for example, where any change in altitude could be VERY dangerous for them.
We can cover a long distance in a very short time, but it is really for trips across the gulf or outback where we save the most time for the patient. If we retrieve a patient from Port Lincoln to Adelaide, it takes around 20 minutes, but if they had to drive, it would be around 7 hours by ambulance! Of course in some cases, the patient wouldn't survive that long. Bringing back a patient from Yalata takes about an hour and a half by air, but probably around 15 hours by road. Again, the aeroplane is often the only practical way to get the job done.