One of the greatest goals we will strive for in life is finding meaningful purpose; a purpose that serves a greater good.
We recently came across an individual, David Stanley, a King Air pilot, who has found that purpose in serving with an organization that has an incredibly altruistic goal; the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) of Australia. In addition to being a pilot, David is also a talented photographer. We reached out to him to learn more about his experiences with the RFDS, to showcase his photography, and to hear how the King Air's versatility excels in Australia.
David Stanley, King Air Pilot with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (Image: RFDS)
David was born in Brisbane, Queensland and then would grow up in New South Wales (NSW). His early aviation career was spent over seas, flying in the Caribbean. During this time, he would learn about the aeromedical sector and first begin flying King Air.
"I first became exposed to aeromedical flying between 2000 and 2006, when I was based in the Turks & Caicos Islands (585 nautical miles South East of Miami). I did a few flights to Nassau, Bahamas carrying hospital patients and enjoyed seeing the instant benefit of emergency care for my patient."
That joy of helping others would propel David to continue aeromedical King Air flying. Upon returning to Australia he would join the RFDS.
"I’m presently based in Dubbo, NSW which is 400 kilometres west of Sydney," David noted, "I spent 12 years in Sydney flying for NSW Air Ambulance/RFDS covering the states of NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, transporting patients to a variety of different tertiary medical care hospitals. Access to quality and safe medical care is difficult for people in the bush, and we go to where we are most needed."
Travel is constant for David. In addition to patients, he also transports primary health clinicians, GPs, dentists and mental health clinicians to remote clinics around Far West and Western NSW.
"With a ‘waiting room’ as large as ours, we also need to ferry our King Airs to different bases – Dubbo, Broken Hill and Bankstown, depending on where there is the most demand," said David, "I usually spend a week or so at a different base every month, getting to know my colleagues."
RFDS pilots are rigorously trained to meet the many difficulties of being an air ambulance pilot. David explained:
"Pilots at the RFDS are regulated in the same way commercial pilots are. We regularly train and go through an annual assessment using our state-of-the-art simulator in Dubbo."
"I did a St John’s medical First Aid certificate, followed by induction training with the RFDS involving Doctors, Flight Nurses and Pilots. I also complete an emergency training course every 12 months covering aspects of life rafts, survival ditching and aircraft safety equipment."
David then noted something that resonated the importance of that training:
Australia is a vast continent. It spans over 7.69 million square kilometers (over 2.96 million square miles), making it the world's sixth largest country by total area. The majority of Australians live in major cities, which only comprise of 0.3% of Australia's land mass. Of Australia's estimated resident population of 25.6 million (in June 21), just over seven million live in rural and remote Australia. Around half a million live in remote or very remote Australia.
David further explained the severity of the remoteness and how the King Air's strengths help reach those areas:
"Some people living in the rural communities we support can drive for 6 or 7 hours before getting to their regional town. We land on dirt strips maintained by the local community just as often as we land at regional airports. Isolation and temperature changes during summer and winter can affect fuel loads, plus thunderstorm activity in summer – particularly in northern parts of Australia can be hazardous. With the King Air being fast, robust, dependable, pressurized, air conditioned and able to land on short runways, the RFDS considers it to be the perfect machine for our needs."
King Air models that David currently flies includes the B200, B350, and the B350 CHW.
"These models are very nice to hand fly, operate long distance, deviate around weather, and pick up multiple patients in single mission," he noted. "Plus, the fusion cockpit upgrade has been awesome in terms of displaying more information and giving me what I need to know for safe, efficient flying."
David has had many unique King Air flying experiences including some humorous ferry flights during his overseas time:
"I completed two long distance ferry flights from Australia to the Caribbean in a King Air B200 that had an added internal fuel tank giving a 20-hour endurance. Flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles in 12 hours was memorable."
It was during the next section, Los Angeles to Providenciales (Turks & Caicos), approximately a 3000nm trip, that U.S. air traffic controllers began questioning the aircraft type.
"They asked "Can you confirm you're a King Air?" several times," David laughed.
Australia features stunning landscapes that host breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. The vastness of the remoteness allows for sights unspoiled by city lights. David noted to us how he has taken hundreds of photos of the beauty of the country. Even the color scheme of the RFDS King Air aircraft itself reflects it. David explained:
"Our new aircraft livery, features a red belly (representing the earth) and a blue tail (the sky). It is eye catching for other pilots as well. I love to show off my plane, I’m very proud to be a RFDS pilot."
The RFDS has had robust support from the many remote communities of Australia. These communities will undergo training to understand RFDS operations (such as an emergency landing) so that they might assist in a voluntary capacity, if required. A training event at a exceptionally remote town (733 kilometers/400 miles, 8 hour drive from nearest capital city, Adelaide) called Packsaddle in Far West NSW became one of David's proudest moments.
Packsaddle locals gathered at the nearby Shannon's Creek Emergency Airstrip, where David landed one of the new RFDS King Air aircraft. Unique about the airstrip is that it serves as a operational highway normally. The demonstration included practicing how shutting down the highway would take place in order to allow for an emergency landing.
"It was a really significant day because it was a whole team effort and took a lot of preparation, where we worked closely with local emergency services to ensure it all ran smoothly," David said. "It was very special to have the local community come together that day, which was all about ensuring they have easier access to emergency healthcare."
Local Packsaddle children view the RFDS King Air
David's work truly embodies the motto of the RFDS: "Provide the finest care to the furthest corner." He hasn't achieved this goal alone; but with the overwhelming support of his colleagues, the numerous communities of Australia, and one of the greatest aircraft ever constructed, the Beechcraft King Air.
"Working for the RFDS which is a national icon gives me a huge sense of pride," David said. "I enjoy the sense of mateship with my fellow team, which includes the Doctors, Flight Nurses, Engineers and our Operations department. I first flew the King Air in 2003, and am now celebrating 20 years of dependable comfort and service."
We hope for many more incredible flight years to come for David.
Special note from the RFDS:
This year, the RFDS celebrated its 95th anniversary, commemorating its long-standing commitment to provide essential healthcare and emergency aeromedical services to the Australian community. In 2028, the Flying Doctor RFDS will celebrate a centenary of operation. We couldn’t deliver on our promise to deliver the finest care to the furthest corner without our amazing fleet of King Air aircraft.
Learn more about the RFDS on the company website, here.
Author: Scott Cooper, King Air Nation Communication Specialist
Info/Photos: (unless noted otherwise): David Stanley, Pilot, RFDS
Additional Support/Info: Taylor Jurd, Brand and Communications Advisor, Royal Flying Doctor Service, South Eastern Section