Joe Saad has swapped the lights of a capital city for the red dirt of the outback to help the Mid West fight COVID-19. And the pilot feels right at home. In 2015, Mr Saad spent nearly a year at Meekatharra working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Now he’s back in the same place, working for the same lifesaving company. Mr Saad, who flies for Tiger in Melbourne, is back behind the controls of the red-bellied PC-12 turboprop aircraft. He has answered an SOS from his former employer — as have many other pilots, doctors, nurses and engineers. The RFDS has increased its frontline workforce capacity by 25 per cent in preparation for a potential increase in patient demand during COVID-19 and beyond. Though grateful to have been “called up”, Mr Saad did get one thing wrong. “I thought I was going to have plenty of time to watch Netflix in the two weeks of quarantine, but I was really wrong about that,” he said. “We were kept very busy with WebEx video conferences and plenty of exams and questionnaires so we’re prepared to transfer patients in different circumstances. “We did intensive training on infection controls and procedures at the Jandakot base. “The personal protective equipment training is intense and controlled. “It gets very hot wearing overalls, a face mask and two sets of gloves, and once we’ve done a COVID-19 transfer, we decontaminate our boots by stepping into a bucket of water and bleach.” Mr Saad said working in aeromedical aviation was “more challenging, more rewarding”. “What helps when you get a call at 1am is knowing you’re going to help someone who is in need of urgent medical care — it gives you the adrenaline to wake up and do your job,” he said And the drawbacks? “The tough side was leaving my wife and family, but they’ve been very understanding and supportive, and we’re lucky to have the technology to keep in touch,” he said.