Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service has received a A$154.4 million ($128.5 million) funding boost from the federal government, part of which will go towards a fleet upgrade.

The government announced last week that it would provide the additional funding over four years from 2007-8 to 2010-11, bringing the government's total support over the period to around A$250 million.

The additional funding will go towards the capital requirements of the service, including aircraft replacement. The service says it is yet to be determined exactly how much each operating division will receive and what sort of upgrade programme the funding could support. There are four divisions - central operations, south-east section, Queensland section and western operations - with each responsible for its own fleet.

The south-eastern division, for example, operates a fleet of 16 Beechcraft King Airs from six bases in regional New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, south-west Queensland and northern South Australia. That section has recently purchased an additional King Air which was funded through an appeal. It is hoping that the additional government funding could result in the purchase of three replacement aircraft. Overall the service operates 50 aircraft, comprising Cessna Titan 404s, King Airs and Pilatus PC-12s.

It has already been decided that part of the funding will go towards the purchase of an aircraft for the delivery of flying doctor services in central Australia. The extra funding will also allow the service to provide medical flights to the Bass Strait islands for the first time.

In the past the service has traditionally had to rely on its own fundraising efforts for aircraft acquisitions and the purchase of medical supplies and life-saving equipment. A medically equipped PC-12 costs in excess of A$6 million. The new funding follows a federal and state review of its operations which determined that the existing funding model was not viable.

Source: Flight International