Jacophin is being inducted to the Arnhem Land programme, her first MAF placement. Induction training is hard work, all the flight training has been completed and now it’s time to put it into practice in a remote place, with new people and many other skills to be developed and applied apart from simply flying the aircraft! It’s a steep learning curve.
Jacophin Singh, MAFI’s first female Indian pilot, was working her way through LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training) towards her first MAF solo operations, with Arnhem Land Chief Pilot Lisa Curran. This day seemed to be the day when everything briefed and discussed was suddenly required to be put into practice!
A busy morning of paperwork
The pair had spent the morning at a remote community after transporting a medical clinic team, enabling them to carry out essential ongoing medical management of several patients and unexpected medical interventions (maybe that’s why the clinic teams always carry so much equipment – they never know what they are going to see!).
Waiting for the clinic to finish, sitting under the shade of the wing it’s still 35°C and today there is no breeze to ease the heat and humidity! Amongst other things, they discuss and review the new MAF patient restraint harness system (this has been recently upgraded, enabling quick installation even if a pilot is new to the system), MAF’s approval to carry dangerous goods (specifically the requirements of medical oxygen as freight), the paperwork (there is always paperwork!) and the practicalities surrounding such an operation.
Last minute medevac
Shortly after returning to the Gove Base, planning for the next flight was interrupted as they were re-tasked with an urgent medical evacuation from a remote community 120km away. With MAF, the 35 minute flight replaced a 3½ hour drive over rough pot-holed bush tracks for the medical team and the desperately ill patient.
Jacophin and Lisa were departed with two medical experts, the patient restraint harness system and portable oxygen as freight (paperwork complete!)
Willing hands and a prayer
On arrival at the airstrip, the medical team were driven fto the patient, an old man, critically ill, unable to walk, and in desperate need of gentle hands and expert help, his anxious relatives standing by.
While the medical team assessed the patient, the MAF flight crew reconfigured the aircraft, including the patient restraint harness system which was fitted in double quick time, and planned the departure. Just as the old 4-wheel drive and most of the community arrived at the airstrip, the old man was transferred by willing hands to the waiting aircraft and after a short prayer they departed to Gove base, 15km from the hospital.
It’s a tale that is told over and over its part of what we do as MAF. What you don’t see when everything runs smoothly is the technical expertise, the briefing, the training, the planning and contingency planning; the consideration of so many variables! It’s a day were it all coincided, a day guaranteed to be etched into the memory for pilots and patient.