90th Air Pilgrimage, what an adventure!

Date published

01 Jun 2018

What a spectacular celebration of 90 years of the Flying Doc and great opportunity to reflect on the services history, and indeed the services future.

A truly memorable event with over 50 aviation enthusiasts from the Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia (AAAA), travelling with 25 Antique Aircraft throughout rural and remote areas of Australia we service.

A spectacle in the sky and from the ground, the aircraft journeyed for nine days, accompanied by a current RFDS King Air, it was a great celebration of how far aeromedicine
has progressed over the last nine decades.


The aviation enthusiasts from the AAAA say they were inspired to participate in the adventure as they were ‘captivated by the early work of the RFDS’. 

Many of the pilots were travelling in aircraft of a similar vintage to those first used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service and so they truly understood the exposure and hazards that the conditions of the day can put you through. As they made the journey through isolated, outback Australia, they grew to appreciate how brave those first Flying Doctor pilots were, flying with no navigation aids in poor conditions.


Bruce Pearcy, who flies a 1934 Stinson, said travelling in the footsteps of the RFDS pioneers had been an eye-opening experience "One of the things this trip has shown me is just how brave the early aviators were, flying across the vast expanses between stations and towns in Queensland is just amazing," he said.


Travelling low and slow, the pilgrimage covered the vast, dry landscape of rural QLD and NSW. Local communities came out in force to welcome the aviators into their townships. Airstrip fences would often be lined with people eagerly awaiting the arrival of the planes and community open days saw people come from far and wide to see the aircraft up close and have a chance to chat with the passionate pilots.


Communities had the chance to step inside our current RFDS aircraft and see the huge progress in aviation technology that allows us to provide such excellent care in the air. For some, it wasn’t there first time inside an RFDS plane having previously been flown for their own health, or escorting a loved one. We heard some amazing stories from these past patients – including the delivery of twins, farm accidents and health scares. It was wonderful to be able to hear the stories of those we service and for them to be able to take a look around the plane that may have saved their life.  


The RFDS are lucky enough to have the CWA as a national partner and they supported the pilgrimage along the way. Morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas meant the hungry pilots were looked after along the way. What wonderful support from some amazing women!

His Excellency, the Governor of QLD joined the celebrations in Cloncurry, the birthplace of the Flying Doctor. A lovely event at John Flynn Place followed by dinner at the town hall was a great way to reflect on the history of the service.


The re-creation of the first flight was a buzz with community members coming to a BBQ breakfast before taking a walk through the maze of antique planes. The Aircraft took off from Cloncurry to Julia Creek, following the same path of the first RFDS flight in Victory. Welcomed in Julia Creek by the community from near and far and a group of school children who chorused “Happy Birthday” to the Flying Doctor.  


The air pilgrimage was a great celebration of our 90 years of service to the community and a way of thanking the amazing volunteers, committees and community fundraisers that have supported the efforts of the Royal Flying Doctor Service over the years.

Thanks to all involved in the adventure!