Shepparton News - - FRONT PAGE - By De­clan Martin

Ard­mona Pri­mary School Year 1 stu­dents Lilli Blake and Len­nix Ponting took on the role of a doc­tor and flight nurse in the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice while be­ing on board a replica air­craft yes­ter­day.

The re­al­is­tic space is used by the ser­vice for their ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram and was a hit with stu­dents and teach­ers.

It is not ev­ery day you see an air­craft out­side your class­room win­dow but that was the ex­pe­ri­ence of Ard­mona Pri­mary School stu­dents when the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice vis­ited on Wed­nes­day.

While not an ac­tual air­craft it­self, the replica of the Pi­la­tus PC12, on a trailer, is used as an ed­u­ca­tion tool for the stu­dents to see in­side the air­craft, which is key to the ser­vice’s abil­ity to save lives in re­mote towns.

The orig­i­nal repli­cas were made for train­ing pur­poses and are fit­ted out with equip­ment pre­vi­ously used by doc­tors and nurses.

The replica comes com­plete with the beeps of the heart mon­i­tor, air­craft sounds and even lets stu­dents test their skills on a flight sim­u­la­tor in the cock­pit.

RFDS ed­u­ca­tion man­ager Tom Ryan said it was a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence for the stu­dents who re­ally learned a lot dur­ing their visit.

‘‘We teach the stu­dents about the his­tory of the RDFS, in par­tic­u­lar the story of its founder John Flynn — who is printed on the $20 Aus­tralian note — and the ge­og­ra­phy of Aus­tralia through the lo­ca­tions we travel to,’’ Mr Ryan said.

‘‘It’s about rais­ing aware­ness of what we do and ties into the school cur­ricu­lum.

‘‘The stu­dents also look at the pedal-pow­ered ra­dio used for com­mu­ni­ca­tion in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.’’

Mr Ryan said the RDFS pres­ence in Vic­to­ria had grown in the past seven years, from hav­ing 15 staff to 450 with the ex­pan­sion see­ing it of­fer more pri­mary health care ser­vices such as den­tal, men­tal health and op­tic and other non-ur­gent check-ups.

The RDFS has a f leet of 70 air­craft na­tion­ally and of­fers emer­gency care and weekly fly-in fly-out clin­ics to re­mote towns or com­mu­ni­ties across 7.3 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres.

The ser­vice’s Vic­to­rian air base is at Essendon, but it also has den­tal vans and road am­bu­lances.

RDFS vol­un­teer and re­tired psy­chol­o­gist Camp­bell Sin­clair, who trav­els with Mr Ryan, said the air­craft were sin­gle-en­gine and quite small so they could land on short and nar­row run­ways in the bush.

‘‘The pi­lots have to be quite skilled and fly at all times, while the lo­cals have had to show some in­no­va­tion in the past to make sure pi­lots can find the run­way at night time,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve heard in the past the lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cer in the com­mu­nity used burn­ing toi­let rolls to mark out the run­way for the pi­lot to land and the doc­tor saved an in­jured stock­man; and in Smith­ton, Tas­ma­nia, the lo­cals lit the run­way up with their ve­hi­cle lights to get anti-venom to a man bit­ten by a snake.’’

Mr Sin­clair said of­ten they were ap­proached by some­one dur­ing their vis­its to schools who told them they would not be alive if it was not for the ser­vice.

‘‘No-one has a bad word to say about the ser­vice,’’ he said.

Mr Ryan said they re­ally en­joyed what they did and he re­mem­bered the wider com­mu­nity of In­ver­gor­don com­ing out to the ser­vice’s past visit to In­ver­gor­don Pri­mary School, which be­came a fundraiser.


Cap­tain and co-pi­lot: Ard­mona Pri­mary School stu­dents Kyla Ponting, Year 6, and Char­lie Ralph, Year 3, try out the flight sim­u­la­tor when the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor vis­ited the school.

Pic­tures: Holly Cur­tis

In­ter­ac­tive: Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice ed­u­ca­tion man­ager Tom Ryan (left) and (right) vol­un­teer Camp­bell Sin­clair with school mum Nickea Trevena.

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