RFDS Rockhampton base manager Carolyn Overy, Councillor Neil Fisher and RACQ executive director Mark Fewtrell.
RFDS Rockhampton base manager Carolyn Overy, Councillor Neil Fisher and RACQ executive director Mark Fewtrell. Jann Houley

Hero pilot tells of joy after helping save boy's life

PILOT James Balharry took a backseat yesterday while Rockhampton Regional Council announced $140,000 in relief for our air rescue services.

But make no mistake.

It's people like James, a Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot of four years in Rockhampton, who are at the forefront of saving lives in our communities.

Rescue Helicopter Council cheque handover: Councillor Neil Fisher reimburse landing fees cheque to Capricorn rescue Helicopter and RFDS July 23 2019
Rescue Helicopter Council cheque handover: Councillor Neil Fisher reimburse landing fees cheque to Capricorn rescue Helicopter and RFDS July 23 2019

The council revealed it would waive landing fees - more than $110,000 for the RFDS and almost $30,000 for the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service - as part of an ongoing commitment to supporting these vital organisations.

The relief means that both services can instead direct funds towards upgrading or purchasing medical equipment.

And that came as welcome news to James, who recalled an important job recently where he played a part in saving a young boy's life.

"Some jobs stick out more than others but we had one recently with a very sick boy at Thangool," James said.

"He had a lot of breathing difficulties and we got him to Brisbane just in time (for life-saving treatment)."

 

James Balharry, RFDS pilot
RFDS pilot James Balharry. Jann Houley

James said he had worked in other areas of the aviation industry but nothing gave him the same satisfaction as being an RFDS pilot.

"No two days are the same which makes the job worthwhile.

"I prefer the ad-hoc nature of the job and I work with the best nurses in the world which is a real privilege and we've got a fantastic team here in Rocky so it's a joy to come to work."

James said the RFDS predominantly did in-hospital transfers and priority medical retrievals.

"We cover an area as far north as Cairns, west to Longreach, scribing an arc towards Cunnamulla, back to Brisbane and anywhere in between.

"We're a 24-hours service so we can get called up for a 12-hour shift with an hour's notice."

Rockhampton Regional Council's Airport Committee chairman Neil Fisher said the council had been able to return landing fees to the respective local services for the past 23 years.

"We've actually donated more than $1 million back to the Royal Flying Doctor Service," Cr Fisher said.

"We know that's just a drop in the ocean (compared to) what it costs to run those services but it's something that we feel very proud to be able to be a part of."