Helping remote families travel to medical appointments

  • Left to right: Angel Flight volunteer pilot Selwyn Favish, Timothy, Max and Braide (Henty locals)

Left to right: Angel Flight volunteer pilot Selwyn Favish, Timothy, Max and Braide (Henty locals)

By
Angel Flight Australia
Marjorie Pagani, Chief Executive Officer
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Since 2003 Angel Flight has been coordinating non-emergency flights to help rural and remote families travel to city hospitals for non-emergency medical appointments. All flights are free and may involve patients travelling to medical facilities anywhere in Australia.

To meet our guidelines, passengers must be medically stable, ambulatory and physically able to enter and exit a small aircraft (involving large steps, twists, bends) without assistance from the pilot and sit up in the aircraft with a seatbelt on for an extended period of time, and if necessary communicate with the pilot, although carers may be able to assist with these functions.

Angel Flight has conducted over 49,000 flights transporting more than 100,000 patients, carers, and family members, many of whom have a similar story to our pictured patient: Henty local, five-year old Max.  

A wonderful, cheery youngster, Max has frequent city specialist appointments that unfortunately he cannot access in his hometown. Henty is a small town located approximately 357 kilometres from Melbourne, meaning a nine-hour round trip via road for Max and his family.  The only other alternative involves many sectors of interstate airline travel to travel on unaffordable commercial flights, but with the help of Angel Flight and its wonderful volunteer pilots and city drivers, Max and his family are able to make the trip to Melbourne in just over an hour and a half – at no cost!

Angel Flight pilots do not carry aeromedical staff so do not act as an alternative to the Royal Flying Doctor Service or Air Ambulance. Flights are conducted by volunteer pilots in their own aircraft. Angel Flight operates Australia-wide with a growing network of pilots and aircraft. Volunteer pilots come from all walks of life and donate their time, their skills and most of their aircraft costs for each flight. Our volunteer pilot flight credentials meet or exceed the requirements of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for the carriage of passengers, and the aircraft meet specified CASA and insurance minimums. Angel Flight has over 3,300 registered volunteer pilots who are eager to assist rural Australians to access medical assistance in major cities.

With the assistance of Angel Flight’s volunteers Max has become somewhat of a ‘frequent flyer’ and has flown 23 Angel Flight sectors since late 2019. But there is some good news during these challenging times: Max and his family now only have to travel monthly, instead of the usual fortnightly trips for treatment.  It is uplifting for the family, and for his ‘Angel Flight family’, to hear such positive success rates following his treatment.

Angel Flight has been able to continue offering free flights and drives to many rural Australians, including Max and his family, during the current COVID-19 pandemic. With restrictions on commercial flights, or unaffordability, many families would have been limited to making the trips via road to the appointments, but for the generosity and commitment of the Angel Flight volunteers.

Angel Flight has also reached out further during these troubled times, helping with transport of medical supplies and personal protective equipment, so that passengers who are unable to travel due to compromised immune systems can still receive their treatment.  It is heartening to see the number of pilots and drivers who have come forward, offering to expand the help Angel Flight can give; they are true champions.

If you think that your patients may benefit from Angel Flight’s service or know of someone who may require assistance, please contact the office on 07 3620 8300. Alternatively, you (or the person requiring assistance) can visit a medical professional and have them register via the website or contact the office to discuss.

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