Saturday, May 17, 2008

Royal Flying Doctor Service Hits Eighty

Reverend Dr John Flynn, (1880-1951), featured here on the Australian $20 bill, was a South Australian Presbyterian minister in charge of the Australian Inland Mission, an organisation dedicated to bringing church services and health care to the outback. He established the RFDS in 1928 after recognising the potential for combining aircraft and radio to reach out to remote parts of Australia.

The first flight, on 17 May 1928, from Cloncurry was made using a De Havilland named ‘Victory’ hired from the fledgling Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (QANTAS) for two shillings per mile flown. The aircraft was a single engine, fabric covered, cabin bi-plane capable of carrying a pilot and four passengers at a cruising speed of just under 80 miles per hour. 'Victory', was greeted at the Julia Creek airstrip by more than 100 people. The distance travelled was 85 miles. 'Victory' went on to fly 110,000 miles in the service of the Flying Doctor until 1934 when it was replaced by QANTAS with a DH83 Fox Moth.

The first pilot, Arthur Affleck, had no navigational aids, no radio and only a compass. He navigated by landmarks such as fences, rivers, river beds, dirt roads or just wheel tracks and telegraph lines. He also flew in an open cockpit, fully exposed to the weather, behind the doctor's cabin. Airstrips were, at best, claypans or, at the worst, hastily cleared paddocks.

The service now has 50 high tech flying emergency rooms and still services the bush.

When I was little our Australian relatives sent us a book of Australiana and the Flying Doctor and education over the radio really captured my imagination. That and the koalas in the back yard.


Nunyaa said...

Can imagine the hardships faced all those years ago having seen the airstrips at Cloncurry and Julia Creek as they are now. Royal Flying Doctors do a wonderful job and many owe their lives to them. Great post. Hey wish I had koalas in my back yard , have never seen one except for in a zoo.

Colin Campbell said...

It is pretty sad that they have to scrap around for resources and people to staff their mission. It must be very expensive to run.

Lil Jimmy said...

This service is so critical to outlying areas - it must, must be supported by government money.

Every Australian would surely support some of their taxes going that way.

Colin Campbell said...

I think that they do James, but they are always fundraising. Not sure exactly what their funding model is.