Air Rescue: Barry Hallett RFDS Pilot

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011 in Angels' Stories, Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Air Rescue: Barry Hallett RFDS Pilot


RFDS Chords for Angels


During the evening of 29April 2010 I was tasked by my company, Royal Flying Doctor  Service (RFDS) Western Operations, to pilot an aircraft with a medical team from Jandakot airport to Paraburdoo airport, in northern Western Australia. We were to retrieve a man who had fallen off a ledge at Karijini National Park and had been seriously injured.

My Part in Nick’s Rescue

Preparation for the Flight RFDS Style

The aircraft arrived at Paraburdoo around midnight. While the plane was refueled, the patient was examined by the medical team and loaded onto the aircraft for the flight to Jandakot Airport, the location of the RFDS base in Perth. He would then be transferred by road to hospital.

Flying At Sea Level

The flight to Paraburdoo was uneventful and the patient transfer was routine. However on the returning flight there were two main aviation considerations. Firstly the medical requirement meant that we had to have a sea level cabin environment due to the patient’s injuries. A sea level cabin means that the aircraft is restricted in altitude to ensure the atmospheric pressure of the cabin is the same as would be experienced by a person standing on the seashore. This means the flight time is slightly slower.

Forecast: Fog

The other consideration was that the Department of Meteorology had forecast a 30% probability of fog at Jandakot and Perth from about 0400 hours.

Waiting For Weather To Clear

We departed Paraburdoo around 0130 hours. As we passed Meekathara, I asked for an update on the forecast for both Perth and Jandakot. It wasn’t all that good so I suggested that we should divert from Mount Magnet to Kalgoolie and wait for the weather to improve.

Time Pressure

It was decided that we should at least attempt a landing at Perth as we wanted to get the patient to hospital as quickly as we could, however we had enough fuel on board in case a diversion was required.

Couldn’t Land at Cunderdin

Meanwhile I also obtained forecasts for Cunderdin and Southern Cross. A landing at Cunderdin, would mean the patient and medical team could be roaded to Perth. The forecast at Cunderdin was for good conditions.

As it eventuated we were not able to land at Perth but had sufficient fuel to attempt a landing at Cunderdin, but unfortunately Cunderdin was also in heavy fog, so we continued on.

Diversion to Southern Cross

I could see Southern Cross about 10 miles west so we landed and waited for about 90 minutes, making many calls to Perth for weather updates in the interim.

Final Destination Perth

Once it was certain that the weather was beginning to improve we got airborne, arriving in Jandakot at 0900 hours.

It turned out to be a long night!

Note: Barry is a pilot recently retired after more than 30 year’s with Royal Flying Doctor Service. We were able to contact Barry just in time for him to join us for the Chords for Angels Concert.

Barry’s expert piloting was yet another important link in the story of the rescue,  following the many hours of support and medical assistance Nick received from tourist volunteers, St. John Ambulance volunteers and State Emergency Services volunteer group at Tom Price. The airports being fogged in was an unexpected extra drama.





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