After losing its only pub early this week the tiny highway town of Morven has its chin up after being presented with its first set of airstrip lights last night.
The donation came after a Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) plane was unable to land at night to collect a patient about a month ago due to insufficient light.
Morven police sergeant Gerry Thornton said he contacted Charleville’s RFDS senior base pilot Roger Rudduck to arrange quotes to light the airstrip.
“We were happy to go through council but in the process Roger contacted a man who wanted to donate the lights to the Morven airstrip,” Sgt Thornton said.
Mr Rudduck said normally an ambulance would drive out and bring a patient in to Charleville for the RFDS to fly out but some particular cases warranted direct access for hospital planes.
“The case that sparked the quest for lights wasn’t urgent enough to call for lighting toilet rolls but Jerry got on to me on behalf of the community,” Mr Rudduck said.
“Augathella has a sealed airstrip and lights and I think Morven wondered why they didn’t have the equivalent.
“I sent off a heap of requests for quotes and instead of sending back a quote John Walton at Aero Associates told me he would pack the lights up and post them with no invoice attached, end of story.”
The lights were tested last night at Morven with Mr Rudduck attending to demonstrate their use and safety around aircraft.
He said the battery operated lights were easy to put out and took about 10 minutes to set up.
“Solar lights are fantastic- they come on and go off every night but they can cost up to $20,000 and are aimed mainly at shire councils,” he said.
“Considering the number of times we’ve been asked to Morven at night, the $1000 lights we got are perfectly suitable.”
Mr Rudduck said the Morven community was “chuffed” at the donation.
“Morven is a very small town that’s dying down there and the fact that somebody did something for them without them having to beg for it was special,” he said.
Sgt Thornton said the new lights would be ideal in cases such as spinal injuries, where until now patients were transported 90 kilometres at 40km/hr via road to Charleville.
“As well as benefits to health care, we’ve had land valuers and cattle buyers that have wanted to land and do inspections and take off again of a night so now they have that option,” he said.
As the son of pioneering Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton, John Walton’s connection to the aviation industry is vast, however his compassion and humility is far more notable.
Mr Walton said he was not after notoriety but questioned “if you see a situation and you can help out, why not?”
“They’ve had a hard time in those areas with the drought and the desperation of some country people has been appalling,” he said.
“Roger asked me for an invoice and I just said you’ve got to be joking.”
Mr Rudduck said the new airstrip lights were satisfying given his impending retirement after 13 years at the Charleville RFDS.
“It’s a great result and it wasn’t one I expected,” he said.
“I hope we never have to use them but they’re a very cheap insurance policy if we do- they’ve got a beautiful airstrip there and it’s now available 24/7.”