It was a day of celebration when Queenland's Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) recently unveiled its new completed Beechcraft King Air 360CHW turboprop aircraft. The 360 arrived in Australia in December 2021 and has spent the last year at the Queensland-based HeliMods facility being transformed into a flying intensive care unit.
The new King Air 360 is the first of seven that RFDS has agreed to purchase from Textron to be apart of the RFDS fleet in Queensland. Each will be configured for multi-stretcher air ambulance operations and will have an aft cargo door, heavy weight operations package, and Pratt and Whitney PT6A-67A engines for additional performance capabilities. This provides further range and speed to help better facilitate patient care and reduce pilot workloads.
“We’re extremely excited to launch the first of this ground-breaking new fleet, which is a key part of our 10-year aircraft replacement strategy to ensure our crews can continue to deliver first-class aeromedical care to Queenslanders,” said Meredith Staib, RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer.
“The new B360 fleet will enhance our inter-hospital transfer service, which provides the backbone to the Queensland Health Aeromedical System, and is delivered in partnership with the Queensland Government.”
The new King Air 360CHM (RFDS)
The Queensland RFDS fleet consists of 20 King Air aircraft which have traveled over 5 million miles in the past year. The versatility of the King Air makes for the perfect aircraft to address the myriad of different terrains and runways that can be experienced in the rural parts of Australia.
“This aircraft incorporates the latest technology and has a superior payload and range profile over the existing fleet. It is the first B360 in country and also the first to be Australian registered," said Shaen Lawrey, Head of Flying Operations.
Shaen Lawrey stands in front of the King Air 360 (RFDS)
“Along with reducing pilot workload, the upgraded engines, five bladed composite propellers and anti-skid braking system will enhance aircraft performance and efficiency – allowing our crews to fly further and faster to reach patients," explained Lawrey.
One of the most important features of the craft is patient comfort. Nurse Manager Aeromedical Training and Clinical Resources, Maree Cummins of the RFDS noted the many features that focus on that goal.
“The back of the cabin has been specially customized to make use of every inch of space and create an intensive care unit in the sky,” Cummins said. “The innovative stretcher system, which integrates seamlessly with Queensland Ambulance Service stretchers, is also a first-of-its-kind for fixed-wing aircraft in Queensland."
Maree Cummins sits inside the new King Air 360 (RFDS)
"The integrated cabin concept includes a connected control system which will allow Flight Nurses and Doctors to monitor medical battery, oxygen capacity and flow rates, and control cabin lighting, while remaining seated," noted Cummins.
The aircraft has officially began operation, and the second King Air 360 has arrived to undergo its fit-out. Over the next 18 months, the remaining five will be ferried to Australia.
For more information about the King Air 360CHM, check out Royal Flying Doctor Service's website feature of the craft here. For further reading, check out our original coverage of the King Air 360 purchase.