Sick or injured Australians stranded overseas can now be retrieved by CareFlight Group’s newest addition to its 13-strong fleet - a Bombardier Challenger CL–604 jet.
The medically equipped retrieval jet is set to complement CareFlight’s existing fleet of two Air Ambulance Learjets - a 45 and a 45XR - strategically located at Brisbane and Townsville International Airports in Queensland, Australia.
Housed in Brisbane, the Challenger CL-604 officially became part of the fleet in October, expanding not just the Air Ambulance resources of CareFlight, but its flight range and patient capacity.
A newborn baby girl in Cairns, Queensland, became the Challenger’s first passenger on Tuesday, 21 October.
“The child had a serious vascular condition that required urgent specialist care in Brisbane,” CareFlight’s Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Allan MacKillop, said.
The CareFlight team flew a specialist Queensland Health neo-natal retrieval team to Cairns to accompany the baby on a fast flight back to Brisbane lasting less than two hours.
“This certainly produced the best possible outcome for the patient,” Doctor MacKillop said.
“It’s also very reassuring for the family to know that we will give their loved one rapid medical care and get them to a specialist medical centre quickly.”,
CareFlight’s Chief Fixed Wing Pilot, Paul Regli, says the introduction of a Challenger to the fleet will benefit patients and the community alike.
“We are excited to welcome the Challenger to our growing fleet, as it further expands our long-range capabilities and allows us to continue to offer patients a lifesaving air-medical retrieval service,” he said.
“We have a significantly greater range at more than 3500 nautical miles, or eight hours per leg.
“With less fuel stops we can treat and transfer patients in need of further specialist care more rapidly.”
Chief Medical Officer Doctor Allan MacKillop says it will also see an increased capacity for treatment.
“The aircraft is fitted with two stretchers, so two critically ill patients can be treated by two independent specialist medical teams on board at any given time.
“The available space on the aircraft also allows for larger, more complex medical machinery to be on board.
“Ultimately, this means we’ll have the capability to move more complex patients,” he said.
Last year CareFlight’s Air Ambulance fleet flew 186 patients from locations as diverse as Bali, Mt Isa, Honiara, Oakey, Longreach and Suva.
The three air ambulance fixed-wing aircraft join a fleet of 11 medically-equipped rescue helicopters serving both the community and industry clients including gas companies in Roma and Gladstone.
Profits generated from the Air Ambulance fleet go directly into funding CareFlight’s six community helicopters – flying in the iconic RACQ CareFlight Rescue colours.
Operating a charitable service funded by ‘profit for purpose’ commercial enterprises – like the Air Ambulance – ensures CareFlight’s community helicopters remain on standby 24 hours a day every day of the year.
Last year alone the RACQ CareFlight Rescue fleet flew more than 1,300 missions.