R.F.D.S. Landing Sites - two

Submitted: Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018 at 20:38
ThreadID: 136574 Views:1100 Replies:9 FollowUps:15
This Thread has been Archived
I have started a new thread to better explain the issue.

What I am asking for is a list of the approved R.F.D.S. landing sites that is both printable and is also in an electronic format such as a GPX and/or a PLT file. This can only be produced by the R.F.D.S. as they are the only ones who know the approved landing sites and it would need to be maintained as I would imagine it would be constantly changing. To download such information from the R.F.D.S. web site prior to a trip would mean it would be very up-to-date. So while it is possible to get this information from the R.F.D.S. via sat phone, there could be delays and confusion in the heat of an emergency.

As a trip leader of others into the remote areas of Australia I have a responsibility for the safety of those that maybe accompanying me. To this end I would have within the group PLB's, a SPOT device and more than one satellite phone, preferably on different systems. We would also have comprehensive first aid kits and a number of the trip participants having done first aid courses. I want to have a contingency plan in case we have a life threatening medical emergency, or we come across others who have a life threatening medical emergency. In reality any outback traveller should have such a plan.
I want to have a plan that covers such things as a vehicle accident with injured person(s), snake bite, and heart attack. In other words a medical emergency that requires a person(s) be transported to medical care, most likely a hospital.

Should such an event occur one would be contacting the R.F.D.S. for assistance by satellite phone. The R.F.D.S. are only permitted to land at landing strips that they have previously accredited as being safe for the aircraft that the R.F.D.S. use. To get the injured person(s) to outside medical assistance they have to be transported to a R.F.D.S. landing site. In an emergency where emotions are high and pandemonium reigns, having a well thought out emergency plan already in place, is vital. If I had this information I would have already a waypoint file loaded into OziExplorer, and in less than one minute, I would be able to know where the nearest landing site is and approximately how long it may take to get there. To get this information in a highly stressed situation over a satellite phone from the R.F.D.S. would take time, is prone to error and misunderstanding. There is also the situation that satellite phone reception may not be always available. Having this information at least you can be heading to the nearest known landing site until such time as you are able to make contact.

Another scenario, is that you have an injured person whose situation is not currently life threatening but needs to get to civilisation as quickly as possible. In planning your way to civilisation it would be prudent to know where the R.F.D.S. landing sites are in case the condition of the injured person should deteriorate and then require the R.F.D.S.

Michelle has pointed out that the Traveller App has landing strips. I looked at this, and while it is better than nothing, it is not best solution. The Traveller App lists landing sites that maybe not R.F.D.S. approved. In the App you cannot only show landing sites, you can only filter "Infrastructure" so it makes them harder to find as you have to go into each green circle to know if it is a landing site. Also there is no guarantee that all the R.F.D.S. approved sites are in the App.

As an regular outback traveller over many years I have noticed that the number of travellers seems to be increasing, and the average age also increasing. This is not really surprising as its about now that all the baby boomers are retiring. From the R.F.D.S. web site they state that their fleet of aircraft is expanding which also indicates that there are more people in the outback. Their fleet comprises a few speciality aircraft but the vast bulk are either King Airs or Pilatus planes which require similar landing sites so that once you are at a landing site what ever plane they send will be able to land there.

The R.F.D.S.have an obligation for the health and wellbeing of their staff. As an outback traveller we should be mindful of this obligation and do everything in our powers not to put anyone who is trying to help us, at risk. Having an emergency plan greatly helps in this regard.

In summary, if outback travellers had access to such a list, it has the potential to save lives. The R.F.D.S. must already have this information so I cannot believe that to have it available on the R.F.D.S. web site would be any great additional cost. Any misunderstandings in communications could see the rescue plane in a different location to the injured person which would be an additional cost to the R.F.D.S.

Virtually all landing sites are on private land. Users of this information would need to acknowledge and understand that landing sites are strictly for emergency use only, and should not otherwise be visited.

From the replies to my first post on this subject there are others who also think this is a good idea. If you think it is a good idea please click the thumbs up box. If enough of you do this I will make a formal request to the R.F.D.S. citing this post and the interest it generated. If this occurs I will keep everyone informed. If you have any thoughts that might help such a submission to the R.F.D.S. please post a comment here.


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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018 at 20:53

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018 at 20:53
"Should such an event occur one would be contacting the R.F.D.S. for assistance by satellite phone."

...and at that point tell them where you are and ask "where is the closest appropriate airfield?"
Problem solvered and you will be sure that the strip is serviceable NOW and that they WILL fly to it.
There is no value at that point in knowing where the other 3,000 (or whatever) strips are.

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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:06

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:06
The point is Peter that having to write down GPS points over what could be a scratchy a sat phone call in a stressful situation takes time and can be prone to error and misunderstanding.
Quite obviously the R.F.D.S. will decide which landing site, but they should be confirming a site you have already have the details of. Much quicker and with less margin for error in what could be a life threatening situation.
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Follow Up By: mountainman - Tuesday, May 01, 2018 at 10:27

Tuesday, May 01, 2018 at 10:27
Let alone any of the cattle stations that have had call outs.

A bit silly thinking rfds will only land at authorised airstrips
They will be anywhere you need them.
When the case happens
They are alot more experienced in this,
Than the whole forum community combined.
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Reply By: Ron N - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:08

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:08
Chris - The problem with your plan is that it doesn't take into account that flight planning is an intensive and very fluid process, with a vast number of factors to be considered, and taken into the equation.

There is one single factor that impacts on, and governs all flight planning - and that is - WEATHER.

Low cloud, fog, high winds, and rain, all seriously impact on flight planning.
As a result, landing points can often be altered to somewhere different from the closest airstrip.

Weather can deteriorate seriously at the landing point, between takeoff and landing.
Virtually all outback landings are VFR - Visual Flight Rules. So simple visibility is generally paramount.

There are specified "minimums" for visibility as regards weather - and for light. Most pilots are not allowed to fly visually during the hours of darkness, because of the high possibility of disorientation.

However, RFDS pilots are specially trained to do night landings under VFR - but then, emergency runway lighting comes into play.

Then there is the need for an "alternate" airstrip to be factored into flight planning, in case something unplanned goes wrong.

This all comes back to communication ability, to be able to be "kept in the loop", and to advise the RFDS of any circumstances requiring changes in plans, or for the RFDS to advise the caller of changes in flight plans.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:33

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:33
Ron, the purpose of having up to date info on R.F.D.S. landing sites is to aid communication with the R.F.D.S.

As you correctly point out it is the R.F.D.S. who decide where they can and cannot land and it is governed by many of the factors you mention and it can change.

Having to write down instructions and GPS points over a sat phone takes time and could lead to errors and misunderstanding, particularly if the phone connection is not good.

By having a list of R.F.D.S. landing sites you only have to confirm which landing site you are talking about and a lot of the time it will be fairly obvious.

Remember also that sat phones don't always work when you want them too. By knowing the approved landing sites you can at least be heading to the nearest landing site while you are waiting for a reliable sat phone signal.

Consider also that if you have a life and death situation you can immediately say to your fellow travellers that you know where the nearest landing strip is and how long it should take to get there. This will help calm an already emotional situation and give confidence that you are on top of the issue. If the sat phone call to the R.F.D.S. subsequently changes the situation, so be it, but at least you have brought a sense of calm to your fellow travellers.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:45

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:45
Chris, the RFDS site provides a substantial amount of information for outback travellers and potential users of the RFDS.

The RFDS keeps a list of approximately 2000 airstrips that are suitable for RFDS use, and this list would more than likely have a degree of fluidity that can change, according to numerous conditions that affect the use of airstrips.

Many airstrips are private, and a few of those owners aggressively protect their airstrip, by refusing to let other aircraft, than their own, land on them.

I'd suggest travellers first acquaint themselves with the available RFDS information.

RFDS advice - Travelling Outback

RFDS - Behind the scenes

RFDS - Conducting a flight

RFDS - Search - Airstrip information

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: OutBack Wanderers - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 20:59

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 20:59
I'm just wondering, how do owners "aggressively protect" their airstrip?
I thought everybody had to hand in their anti-aircraft guns at the gun buy-back scheme.

Since it's an emergency, wouldn't the RFDS have priority over private airstrips?
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 22:25

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 22:25
Outback Wanderers - Well it works like this. You need permission from any private airstrip owner to land on their strip.

99.9% of pilots call up the landowner (who owns the airstrip), prior to takeoff, and whilst doing flight planning, and most gain that permission.

However there are a few of these private airstrip landowners (the aggressive ones), who refuse point-blank, to allow other aircraft to land on their airstrip.

They produce reasons such as liability problems, damage to their airstrip, and lack of payment for previous landings by other aircraft (and yes, a large majority of airstrips charge a landing fee. With many private airstrips, where an owner is amenable to other aircraft using his airstrip, the payment is usually an amicable "donation" arrangement. Airstrips cost serious money to build, and to maintain).

CASA advises pilots that an unauthorised landing at any place that is not unambiguously open to public use for aviation, may be considered a trespass - and that liabilities may be incurred where conflicts with other users, or damage to persons or property occur.

These aggressive landowners who refuse landing permission on a blanket basis, then utilise the full force of the law to chase up pilots who land on their airstrip without permission.

As you can imagine, they can produce plenty of reasons why they are aggrieved, and have suffered various forms of losses, or property damage, or interference with their operations - either pastoral, or air operations.

Of course, there's always the 'fall back" defence, that the landing was an emergency landing, due to a major aircraft fault, or other acceptable reason - but the pilot would then have to produce evidence of the "emergency".

I couldn't imagine any landowner refusing permission for an RFDS flight to land on their airstrip - but who knows, there are some "dog in the manger" types out there.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 23:00

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 23:00
If there is an emergency and you contact the R.F.D.S. by sat phone they decide where they can land and advise you accordingly. Its not something we travellers have to worry about.
If a landing strip owner does not want other aircraft landing on their strip they would not apply to have certified for use by the R.F.D.S.
I would imagine that if a landing strip is certified for use by the R.F.D.S., that part of the agreement is that the R.F.D.S. can use that strip in ANY emergency.
I could not imagine a land holder would say that the R.F.D.S. can only use their strip for their own family.
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Reply By: Zippo - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:38

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:38
Chris, I understand why you see the benefit of having such a list at hand. But as Ron pointed out, it is a dynamic "list" that is subject to change in such a short time window, Regardless of how recently you acquired the list, it would be out-of-date operationally "before the ink had dried". Rain is just one thing that can change the serviceability of an unsealed strip in hours, just as you would appreciate it does with unsealed roads.

Furthermore, RFDS would be unlikely to provide such a list as there would be some liability for outcomes if your party headed towards a "listed" strip on your just-in-case-(s)he-gets-worse scenario, only for them to advise that strip would/could not be used and left you out of position and things turn ugly. I'm sure their legal people would prefer the normal stance ("arse-covering").
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:55

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 11:55
Hi Zippo, it looks like you were typing your post while I was typing my reply post to Ron above.

As I said to Ron having a list of approved landing sites is an aid to communication with the R.F.D.S. Sure things can change and if they do you will have the write all the details down. But landing sites do not appear and disappear overnight and I would suggest that any such list will be useful 99% of the time.

By aiding communication with the R.F.D.S. you are helping them and I would suggest it is in their interest to maintain such a list.

As for the legal issues, such a list would have a disclaimer that the list is to aid communication with the R.F.D.S., is subject to change without notice, and that in an emergency communications must be directly with the R.F.D.S.
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Follow Up By: Zippo - Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 23:00

Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 23:00
Yes Chris, our posts did "cross in the mail" ....

As suggested elsewhere, ERSA may be your best bet. It lists all airports and ALA's in Australia. Below that, there are the Country Airstrip Guides for each state (*).

These will provide the coordinate info that will help circumvent any information corruption in your prospective RFDS satphone dialogue.

(A lot of "farmer Jones back paddock" strips are included in the CAG, but equally a lot aren't. These are unlikely to be suitable for RFDS fixed wing use though, and a chopper only needs a relatively level clearing).

(*) Have only the WA one at hand, but it does state they are available for "all Australian regions" on the opening page.
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Reply By: greybeard - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:16

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:16
To summarize, you're suggesting that a list of potential landing ground lat/long coordinates carried with you could potentially assist if communications during an emergency are garbled or not clear with the potential of obtaining incorrect or incomplete information.
Go online to Airservices Australia and search for ERSA (EnRoute Supplement Australia) which has all registered airports in Australia in it. Then google for 'Country Airstrips Guide' (one for each state) and where to buy them. Also AOPA have an airstrips guide (AOPA australia not AOPA america ;) ). And there are a few more online guides as well.
That'll cover pretty much all of the strips around the place. Don't forget to subscribe to the regular update service for all of these to catch any changes.
It doesn't matter if some of those strips aren't suitable for the RFDS usual aircraft (they'll make a call as to how and where they provide assistance, could be a chopper, smaller fixed wing or even a vehicle).

Now you have the info that the flight and dispatch crew have available to them when it was last updated. When they pick a place you can look it up yourself if you can't hear them clearly on the sat phone or whatever you're using to contact them. Not sure how you'd cope if any list was updated with new locations after you'd last updated your list (new mining strip graded for instance).

Me, I'd just sort out the communication issues. After all if you can hear each other well enough to work out that medical assistance is required then I'm pretty sure you could communicate where it's going to happen. People have been doing this over some pretty average coms links for a couple of years now.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:56

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:56
Thanks greybeard, good suggestion but to complicated for the masses I would think.
My suggestion of a R.F.D.S. list supplied via there web site is very simple and easily understood. It does however require the R.F.D.S. to agree and maintain such a list.
This whole post is about getting feedback from other outback travellers, and should many others agree with me I will put a case to the R.F.D.S. I think anything that potentially could be of assistance in life threatening situations is worth pursuing, I am just looking for support from other travellers.
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Reply By: ExplorOz Team - Michelle - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:21

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:21
It's still up to the RFDS to advise the logistics. In many circumstances they may not want you to drive the patient to the runway but they might coordinate for ground rescue crew to come to you, and transfer the patient to their vehicle/ambo etc and then to the runway.
If RFDS want people to have this list, we can certainly add that to our app although as we already have a list of known airstrips Australia wide in the app (which works offline) we could just add an attribute to note which ones are RFDS approved (however as noted above, we would typically take the line of least liability also and this is so prone to change it hardly seems relevant).
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:46

Thursday, Apr 19, 2018 at 12:46
Hi Michelle, as I have said elsewhere, such a list is an aid to communication. If the R.F.D.S. say stay where you are we will come to you that's great, very easy, but if they say go to one of their landing sites having a list makes it very clear which one you are talking about. No writing required.

Your idea of the R.F.D.S. making the information available to ExplorOz and it being incorporated into the Traveller App is a really great idea and much better than my idea of having a list. This is, I suggest, worth following up. If I decide to approach the R.F.D.S. on this matter I will contact you before hand to see if you want to be involved or not.

ExplorOz liability can easily be covered by disclaimers, remember we are trying help people in life threatening situations not hang Michael and yourself out to dry.
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Reply By: Member - David & Kerry W - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 08:17

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 08:17
G'day Chris.

Having had a little experience with the RFDS they will tell you what to do, where to go and how. They just need to know your problem and position. Best thing to do is carry one of their comprehensive first aid kits if you are part of a group regularly travelling the bush.

Believe me they know more about what is required than all of us put together.

I also had some experience with the USA system and RFDS is way out in front, very practiced and very professional. Support them!

Cheers David
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Sunday, Apr 29, 2018 at 03:04

Sunday, Apr 29, 2018 at 03:04

"I also had some experience with the USA system..."

I'm curious, which system are you referring to? I don't know of a system in the US that I'd think of as equivalent to the RFDS. So this may be an opportunity for me to learn something. :)
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Reply By: Ron N - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 12:20

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 12:20
There's one important thing that you need to know when dealing with medical emergencies, and the RFDS in particular.

That important thing is - the weight of the person who will need to be stretchered and carried on an aircraft.

In this day and age of general obesity, there are many people who carry a lot of weight.
Medical people have to know what the patient is likely to weigh - and weight limits on aircraft are strict, and the pilot has to calculate the Centre of Gravity of the aircraft, with a reasonable degree of preciseness, before takeoff.

In addition, aircraft are cramped at the best of times, and there's a great deal of effort and manoeuvring involved, to get a hefty, often helpless, patient aboard a smallish aircraft.

So, I know this is a touchy subject, and many overweight people lie (even to themselves) about their weight, but it is one of the important things to know, and possibly even record, on a trip.

At one time, most medical equipment was rated to 120kgs, but in recent times, this limit has had to be increased because of the number of patients that are exceeding that limit on a very regular basis.

It's an unfortunate fact of life, that it's generally an obese person who has the highest likelihood of having a life-threatening medical event.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 18:55

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 18:55
For an emergency retrieval, this would not be a problem for a PC-12, and definitely not a drop in a bucket for a B-200 or 350.
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Follow Up By: OutBack Wanderers - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 21:03

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 21:03
Like those Americans I hear that needs a forklift to lift them on a pallet, now, that's obesed
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Reply By: Malcom M - Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 13:33

Friday, Apr 20, 2018 at 13:33
Hi Chris

I'm shocked how no one is interested in the merits of this idea.
Bottom line is that you don't have to use the info if you don't want to so why are they all knocking the idea.

Have you asked the RFDS for the info and what they think about the idea?
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Reply By: ant_schomacker - Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 13:55

Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 13:55
Whilst I can certainly understand your intent with this list, it is highly unlikely that you will be given such a list.

As a paramedic (QAS & working in Cape York) it is not up to me to choose a landing strip for RFDS. I get told where to meet them

I strongly suggest that no matter where you are your first call in an emergency should be to Triple Zero (000). Give your location (as best you can) including Lat & Long where possible and all services will be coordinated (including nurses from clinics, paramedics, helicopter or fixed wing aeromedical, and in some locations even property owners may be requested to provide assistance).

Just remember, even if RFDS accepts a tasking they can and will divert to another location if something more serious (life threatening) comes in. In this instance you will be glad to have someone else already coming.

My best advice if you’re going to be somewhere so remote that RFDS is your only option... ensure you have a high quality remote first aid kit (realistically this will likely cost more than $200) and the training to use it appropriately keeping in mind that it will be several hours before professional assistance arrives.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 15:38

Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 at 15:38
Let me rephrase the benefit of a list of R.F.D.S. landing sites.

In an emergency in a remote location you firstly ring 000. If after the emergency services have assessed your situation and they tell you they will be sending a plane, by having a list I will have already pinpointed all the possible landing sites and estimated an ETA at them. There is then a very high degree of certainty of where to meet and when.

Without the such a list you have to write down the details then go away to calculate an ETA and then most probably have to ring them back. This method is reliant on the two people involved not making a mistake in the relaying and writing down GPS coordinates and instructions, remembering that this is being done in a stressful situation. I am saying having the list of landing sites saves time, and eliminates a source of error. Get one number wrong when writing down GPS coordinates and you go to the wrong place, could mean the difference between life and death.

Remember the R.F.D.S. want you to be at the agreed place at the agreed time, so they also have a vested interest in ensuring that there are no misunderstandings.

And before anyone says the list might have changed, that is true, but there are many hundreds of landing sites and the chances of the one closest to you changing would be very small. And even if there is a change then one just has to resort to the pencil and paper and hope that you get it right.

All the list does is give a far greater certainty in a possible life and death situation of where you meet the R.F.D.S. if that is what they direct you to do.

Imagine YOU have been bitten by a snake, what would you like to see happen?
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