The Captain John Ashton Memorial Award

To recognise a professional pilot or organisation for an outstanding contribution to flight standards and aviation safety within Australia.

2021 Awarded to:  Royal Flying Doctor Queensland Section

RFDS Queensland Section John Ashton MemThe Royal Flying Doctor Service Queensland Section (RFDSQ) transported 11700 patients in the last calendar year, logging just on 28200 flight hours for the period. From eight bases in Queensland, the area of operation encompasses Remote and Regional Australia with operations to unimproved surfaces; including road landing sites, as well as International Airports.

The Flight Standards Team of seven personnel, led by the Manager Flight Standards Warren Schmitt and oversighted by Head of Flying Operations (HOFO) Shane Lawrey are responsible for Flight Standards, including CASA Licensing requirements to meet the obligations and Aviation Standards for the organisation under the auspices of Air Operator Certificate CASA.TAAOC.0060-23.

To manage the risks, associate with single pilot operations in high performance turbo prop aircraft, in 24/7 aeromedical operations, the RFDSQ Pilot group participate in a robust training and checking regime. Each Pilot is subject to the following on an annual basis:

  • 1 week of training and checking, twice yearly (nominally at 6-month intervals) themed on safety data from the RFDSQ  Safety Management System (SMS) data and/or sector risk profiles.
  • An in-aircraft night check consisting of a minimum of 3 sectors and night circuits at a “blackhole” aerodrome with 1 instrument approach on return.
  • An in-aircraft route proficiency check conducted on a rostered shift assessing aeromedical tasking standards
  • A Cabin Safety day, including theory, practical training and assessment of emergency procedure standards.
  • Human factors training integrated with other disciplines based on themed SMS trends for the sector.
  • Aviation and RFDSQ specific online recurrent training/testing.

The Flight Standards Team have also assisted implementation of the following operational improvements delivering efficiencies, safety outcomes and best practice aviation standards in a complex aeromedical environment:

  • Introduction of RVSM approval to the Kingair fleet with ongoing crew simulator training and checking.
  • Introduction of Performance Based Navigation and LNAV/VNAV APV capability with associated training and checking systems.
  • Duplicated navigation and surveillance avionics systems with no single point of failure by design.
  • Assisted the RFDSQ to achieve International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) Stage 1, 2 and 3 in consecutive accreditation cycles. RFDSQ became the first dedicated aeromedical provider in Australia to achieve level 3 in March 2021 having worked for 6 years previously achieving levels 1 and 2. The International Business Aviation Council is headquartered in Montreal Canada and monitors and conducts audits worldwide. To achieve level 3 accreditation the highest aviation safety standards and the culture within the organisation must be of the highest order.
  • Maintains the CASA approved CAR217 Training and Checking System as well as the CASA Part 141 Training Organisation.
  • Operationalised the B350 type transitioning the RFDSQ and its Pilot cohort to greater than 5700 kg air transport operations.
  • Introduced integrated human factors training for staff and crew interacting with front line operations.
  • Rationalised the RFDSQ fleet achieving an all multi-engine turbine fleet of B200 and B350 Kingairs.
  • Transition the RFDSQ Training and Checking from all in-aircraft to an integrated simulator and aircraft model.

The RFDSQ has been in operation for 92 years and the above accomplishments have positioned the organisation as a world class Aeromedical provider serving the Queensland and Australian Community.

For an outstanding contribution to flight standards and aviation safety within Australia, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Queensland Section and its Flight Standards Team is awarded the Captain John Ashton Memorial Award.

Previous Winners:

2019  Captain David Evans

2020  Captain Graham Stokes FRAeS

2021  Royal Flying Doctor Queensland Section