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AIR FORCE November 26, 2009
By Peter Johnson
RAAF Base East Sale person-
nel combined to lend a helping hand
when a Qantas 737 aircraft diverted
to the base to obtain medical help for
The aircraft, travelling from
Auckland to Melbourne, landed at
2.37pm on Sunday, November 15 with
167 passengers and seven crew aboard.
The ill male passenger was believed
to have been unconscious when the air-
Military, Defence APS, and con-
tractor personnel all swung into action
to provide support.
Air Base Executive Officer at East
Sale, WGCDR Sharyn Bolitho, was
proud of the response.
"RAAF Base East Sale may be a
small base compared with some, but it
achieves the same aims of providing an
airfield capability, ready to handle any
emergency," she said.
Fire Services Watch was contact-
ed by Melbourne Flight Centre, and
spoke direct to the aircraft on finals.
After landing, the aircraft was escorted
along taxiways to air movements by a
Transfield fire services truck.
Security police personnel escorted
a local ambulance and Victoria Police
to air movements with access initially
to the aircraft by a ladder from the fire
services truck. Ambulance crew then
stabilised the passenger on board.
Duty personnel provided stairs to
the aircraft, and the passenger was
conscious when taken off the air-
Accompanied by his wife, he was
taken by ambulance to the Central
Gippsland Health Service.
Duty crew and refuelling personnel
were already on base, and attended the
aircraft soon after arrival, followed by
Air Movements, the Duty Member and
Air Base Executive Officer.
Duty Air Traffic also brought
required personnel in to provide air
traffic control services, as requested by
the aircraft captain for departure.
Sale races to assist
After refuelling, the aircraft depart-
ed at 4.18pm.
WGCDR Bolitho said the aircraft
captain may have been forgiven for
wondering what was going on as he
circled the base for the first time.
As he was in contact with the base
fire station, he would have received an
explanation of the unusual sight at the
southern end of the airfield.
This was where the RAAF
Automobile Club of East Sale
(RACES) was holding one of its two
annual super sprint events, also hosting
many of the local Victorian car racing
The aircraft passengers also
received a complimentary air display
as the Roulettes signalled their return
to base after a squadron deployment.
"Not bad for a single detour from
Auckland to Melbourne," WGCDR
Bolitho said. "East Sale is very proud
of its 'can do' attitude, and its ability
to get things done. That also comes
with being a well accepted part of the
"Whether it is 'dropping in' to the
Gippsland 150th Anniversary Heritage
Show to display the superb winching
techniques of Air Force medical staff
and the base CHC Search and Rescue
helicopter, or providing the catafalque
party for the Sale Remembrance
Day service, the base contributes as
much as it can to the community and
"The base also hosts as many
local schools as it can throughout
the year, to encourage our prima-
ry school students to start thinking
ahead for careers.
"What RAAF Base East Sale lacks
in size, it makes up in spirit," she said.
RAAF Base East
Sale may be
a small base
some, but it
same aims of
to handle any
DROPPING IN: Above, a Qantas 737 aircraft diverted to RAAF Base East Sale en route to
Melbourne to get urgent medical help for a passenger on board.
Photo: SQNLDR Ray Plekker
CARS RACE TO THE SCENE: Above inset, car enthusiasts taking part in a Super Sprint event at
the southern end of the base airfield when the jet landed head over for a look. Photo: Jefferson Welsh
AT THE READY: Right, the firefighters from the base who responded, from left, Jason Collins,
Dave Gray, John Hepworth and Colin Anderson.
Photo: AC Terry Hartin
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