Once seen in the sky, defending the land down under, three retired Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Challenger 604 jets will now serve the country in a different way.
Queensland-based aeromedical charity, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue took on the trio of former Air Force aircraft, expanding and upgrading the company’s fleet of dedicated, medically configured jets.
It’s a coup for regional Queensland, with the expansion giving people who live in remote communities even faster access to world-class medical treatment.
“The Challenger 604 aircraft is the longest-range aeromedical jet available for immediate emergency deployment in Australia,” Executive Manager of the LifeFlight Coordination Centre Peter Elliott said.
“The aircraft can go to the majority of airstrips and townships in Queensland and bring those people to the major centres such as Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Brisbane. ”
The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jet fleet now consists of four Challenger 604s, two of which will be based in Brisbane and two in Townsville.
“One of the new aircraft is replacing our Lear 45 jet, which has been based in Townsville for the past 10 years, while the other two are an addition to our fleet,” Mr Elliott said.”
The latest additions arrived in Australia, from America, in February and have since undergone an extensive medical fit-out.
“The three new Challengers were previously operated by the Royal Australian Air Force,” Mr Elliot said.
“Once retired, the aircraft were parked up in America; awaiting LifeFlight’s aircrew to retrieve them and fly them to their new home in Queensland.”
During their time with the RAAF, all three aircraft conveyed Prime Ministers, Governor Generals and various visiting Heads of State including members of the Royal Family, port-folioed members of Parliament and senior members of the Australian Defence Force in support of defence business.
The Challengers predominantly flew around Australia but were also utilised for international tasking, with regular visits to the South Pacific and South East Asia and occasional tasking to destinations further afield such as the Middle East and European regions.
With a crew including a Captain and First Officer, Critical Care Doctor and Flight Nurse, each aircraft is now ready to come to the aid of Australians in a way it never has before.
“More than 70% of the missions completed by the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jets are for Queensland Health patients and come at no cost to the patient,” Mr Elliot said.
“Each aircraft can be airborne in as little as 90 minutes.”
The jet fleet also services international clients, through travel insurance.
“We have a large area where we operate, and that’s all the way through the south pacific, Asia and beyond and the Challenger 604 is the perfect aircraft for that,” Mr Elliot said.