A Case Study of the aftermath of a violent event at 15,000 feet.

Mr John Brockelsby1

1Royal Flying Doctor Service Wa, Jandakot, Australia

In October 2017 an RFDS flight crew experienced an unprovoked and unexpected assault in flight whilst transporting a patient to Perth for treatment.

In this presentation we take a look at the circumstances that preceded the event, the actions taken by the flight crew, and the findings from the subsequent investigation which led to the development of a set of procedures designed to reduce the likelihood and the impact of any future similar events.

We will examine the vulnerabilities in the pre-existing practices, and describe the changes that were made as a result of the event.  These changes weren’t made lightly, or quickly.  With a pilot, doctor, and nurse on board the aircraft flying at 30,000 feet, as well as one or more patients, the questions always were:

  • How do we foresee and prevent a similar event?
  • What precautions do we need to take before and during the flight, and what options are available to us?
  • What actions should we take when another such event occurs?

The learnings weren’t all in and around the aircraft.  We learnt valuable lessons in respect of how we communicated, and how we supported our crew when they made it back to base, and these lessons have been captured in new processes that now form part of our training and incident response.


John joined the RFDSWA in 2016 as the Safety, Quality and Risk Manager.  He has many years of experience operating and managing teams in remote and harsh environments, as well as having spent several years as a senior public servant managing all things risk, security and emergency coordination.  In addition he headed up the Australian Institute of Training and Development as the National President during the early 2000s, and has been recognised by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation as an Honorary Fellow for services to Rural Leadership.

Recent Comments
    Recent Comments