I saw the signs about Flying Doctor night landings earlier in the week but for some reason thought they related to night clinics. (Day clinics are usually held each Friday).
We did hear planes flying over repeatedly last night, which was unusual - and we wondered if there had been some drama. When returning home from our grocery collection this morning, we spotted a new blackboard sign in the free camping area. It mentioned a sausage sizzle as well as the night landings so we thought to make further enquiries.
We're glad we asked around. Each year the Yowah International Airport hosts night training for the Royal Flying Doctor Service because the pilots need to maintain currency of their night landing ratings. The airport runway is usually marked at night by solar-powered cones. These were covered for tonight's practice. Instead two cars were parked at either end of the runway, their headlights/tail lights marking the start and finish points.
We watched the first pilot make four separate landings/three take-offs. As we watched we chatted to some of the local volunteers about what was happening. It was a very interesting evening. (In between landings and while we were talking, Vaughan collected bugs from inside the small airport building).
During a break in the proceedings, we were given a quick tour of the plane by Roger, the more experienced pilot. Vaughan sat in the nurse's seat, while I used the doctor's. Erin and Nick perched on one of the two stretchers. Roger showed where some of the gear was stowed and demonstrated how the stretchers worked, explaining that the plane is effectively equipped similarly to an intensive care unit.
Roger was called to dinner and we thanked him for his time. We spoke a little to the pilot trainer and then decided to head home, taking Vaughan's bug collection with us.