A flaming toilet paper runway is one way to land at night in outback Australia

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Pitch black and no flares to light your runway? Set some toilet paper on fire instead.
Pitch black and no flares to light your runway? Set some toilet paper on fire instead.

Image: ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE

The Australian outback is a big, barren place and in emergencies? Sometimes you need to think outside of the box.

If it’s setting rolls of toilet paper on fire to help land a plane, then so be it. 

Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) service pilot Geoff Cobden, along with a doctor and nurse, were called on to airlift an injured stockman from an airstrip at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse, Queensland at around midnight recently.

Image: Royal Flying doctor service

Cobden explains that the logistics for landing in a remote location are figured out before the flight. At night, flares are used for lighting a runway. If that’s not available, car headlights can work too.

As it was pitch black and the hotel didn’t have any flares, the people on the ground resorted to lighting rolls of toilet paper alight to assist the plane in the darkness of the night. Cobden assures Mashable Australia that it’s something that happens every so often.

“We do a few a year. We’d like stations to have their own flares and be practiced in putting them out. There are occasions when that’s not possible, when they’ve not got flares, so this is the next best thing,” he said.

Image: Royal flying doctor service

The roll of toilet paper is dipped in diesel, then lit on fire when told so via radio, usually when the RFDS plane approaches overhead. A flaming toilet paper roll will stay lit for approximately 30 minutes.

“The people out here are pretty amazing. You ring ’em up and they burst into life, they get out and do it. Within half an hour of the call they had them set up,” Cobden said.

“The stations out here look after their stations pretty well, because we’re their only way out of there. There is no other option,” he added.

The Mount Isa RFDS base looks after approximately 760,000 square kilometres of land (293,437 square miles), which is bigger than the countries of Chile and France. Yes, if you didn’t know already, Australia is big.

[h/t ABC News]

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