(Angels of the air)





The Complete Book of Australian Flying Doctor Stories


Royal Flying Doctor



The Royal Flying Doctor Service was started by the Rev. John Flynn in 1928. It is an air ambulance service for the transport of people in remote areas. The R.F.D.S. is a non-profit organisation and relies heavily on public donations for its continued operation.


Initially known as the Aerial Medical Service the organisation started in the remote Queensland outback town of Cloncurry. Rev. Flynn was involved in the establishment of inland hospitals and nursing centres for the Australian Inland Mission under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.


Flynn was inspired to create an air ambulance service as he became aware of a number of tragedies that occurred to those who were too far from medical care. One case in particular, that of Jimmy Darcy, (see Halls Creek for the full story) was the catalyst for getting the service started.


The twin development of the radio and the aero plane allowed an effective network of R.F.D.S. bases to spread across Australia and to provide a 'mantle of safety' for those who lived in the far outback.


Flynn found support from people like H.V. McKay, Dr. George Simpson and Hudson Fysh (one of the founders of QUANTAS).


The first R.F.D.S. flight covered 85 miles from Cloncurry to Julia Creek. In the first 12 months the service made 50 flights covering some 20,000 miles. The R.F.D.S. was the first comprehensive air ambulance service in the world.


The first bases in W.A. were set up at Wyndham, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie and Meekatharra.


In 1942 the Aerial Medical Service became the Flying Doctor Service and was granted Royal Warrant in 1952 becoming the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1955.


Two innovations that have saved many lives over the years were the 'medicine chest' and the anatomical chart. The 'medicine chest' is a store of important medical supplies kept on various properties for emergencies. Critical first aid can be given initially by radio and the numbered  anatomical chart assists those with little or no medical knowledge to locate specified areas of the body. Like the chart, the medicines in the chest are numbered for easy identification.


Many outback main roads incorporate an air strip as part of the normal road surface. These are clearly marked and it is important to keep an eye out for planes that may be about to land.


The R.F.D.S. annual report of 2003 quoted the following statistics:


Planes operated - 36

Bases - 23

Employees - 521


The R.F.D.S. continues to be a vital service in Australia. When was the last time you sent them a donation?


Average daily operations





Kilometres flown.








Patients seen




Emergency evacuations





I'm lost please take me home...

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