In someone’s despondency there is, occasionally at least, someone else’s gain. So it is with the famous Royal Flying Doctor Service, which is benefitting from the economic difficulties facing the airline industry.
Typically the RFDS has been in a near-continuous pilot-recruiting cycle as a relatively small number of aviators seek out the sometimes difficult life of an Outback bush pilot. And for those that are in service, there has typically been the pull of better-paying work with major airlines such as Qantas or Virgin Australia.
But now the flying boot is most definitely on the other pedal. Because, while airline jobs are falling off a cliff and many commercial pilots find themselves unemployed, the RFDS continues to soar through the wide-open skies of the Australian Outback.
Extra funding means service can recruit more pilots
According to a report by ABC News, the Flying Doctor has received hundreds of applicants for pilot job roles that, in the past, were lucky to see more than 30 people express interest.
Extra funding for the RFDS to help it fight outbreaks of the coronavirus in rural Australia is enabling it to recruit more pilots and highly qualified applicants are keen to fill the posts in far-flung parts of the country.
In an interview with ABC News, the RFDS head of flying operations, Shane Lawrey, said that in 2017 the service lost 22% of its 200 pilots to commercial airlines.
RFDS is always looking to recruit, but lucrative airlines beckon
“We’re always recruiting, sort of continuously, but back in September 2017 there was a bit of a pilot shortage where the airlines picked up activity and a few of our staff decided to move that way,” he said.
“We have been basically catching up ever since because the aviation market has been quite buoyant, however the COVID situation has turned that around quite dramatically.”
By way of comparison, Lawrey said a job ad in 2017 for a pilot position at Mt Isa had attracted around 36 applicants. This time around there were 250 expressions of interest.