Emergency Aeromedical Service

Every 10 minutes, your Flying Doctor delivers the finest care to someone living, working or travelling in outback South Australia and the Northern Territory.

RFDS emergency aeromedical service SA/NT

Saving lives in outback emergencies

The RFDS provides 24/7 emergency aeromedical evacuations throughout outback Australia for people who are seriously ill or injured and require urgent medical attention in hospital. In 2021/22, our aeromedical crews airlifted more than 9,000 patients across South Australia and the Northern Territory to safety.

Each RFDS aircraft is fitted out to be a ‘flying intensive care unit’. Our specialist aeromedical retrieval team comprises a pilot and flight nurse, and if extra assistance is needed, a retrieval doctor will join the crew.

Doctors are trained in critical-care and midwifery, and our flight nurses have a critical-care background and often vast experience in rural and remote medicine, and midwifery.

RFDS Pilatus PC-12 aircraft can carry two patients with the added ability to carry a new-born in a humidicrib secured to a stretcher; the RFDS Medi-Jet 24 has capacity for three stetchers.

From motor vehicle and motorbike accidents to broken bones, heart attacks, strokes and respiratory failures, our aeromedical crews a ready to rapidly respond 24/7 in any emergency situation in Outback Australia.

RFDS emergency aeromedical retrieval SA/NT

Patient stories

Today, your Flying Doctor will emergency airlift 15 South Australians and 8 Territorians to safety.

The Outback can be a harsh and unforgiving place to live, work and explore. Check out real stories from real RFDS patients below.

RFDS patient Richard Hobbs

Down to the Wire

Port Augusta tradesman and footballer Richard Hobbs was working at a residential property in Beltana, 540 kilometres north of Adelaide, when he fell from a ladder.

As he fell, he caught his arm on a metal bracket and was left dangling three metres from the ground. The bracket split open his arm severing his brachial artery, the major vessel supplying blood to the arm.

Richard had a matter of hours before he risked losing his arm and potentially bleeding to death.

“Sitting there in the huge pool of blood, all I could think about was my family. My parents, sisters, and their kids.”

Down to the wire: Richy's story >
RFDS patient Phil Eley

Badly broken, barely breathing

From touring the United States to traversing the Himalayas, 70-year-old Adelaide financial advisor Phil Eley has spent decades on motorcycles pushing the boundaries on some of the world’s most dangerous roads.

But when a ride on home soil went horribly wrong, the veteran motorcyclist was flung over his handlebars, crash-landing metres from his bike. His friend at the scene, Bill feared the worst.

“Phil and his bike were thrown six feet in the air at least. By the time I got there, he was lying on the side of the road completely motionless with the bike just smashed to bits.”

Badly Broken, Barely Breathing
RFDS patient Shannon

Out of breath, out of nowhere

Today, it's all smiles for Shannon and her young family.

But it was only weeks ago – during an outback camping trip – that the mother of two found herself struggling to breathe in one of the most isolated places in the world.

With Shannon clinging to life, her family called upon the RFDS.

"I feared the worst — I thought, 'What are we going to do if I die here?'"

Out of breath, out of nowhere

In an emergency...

For 24-hour medical and emergency assistance in outback SA or NT call 000. The Flying Doctor will be advised of your emergency and will be on its way.

Alternatively, if you are in South Australia, you can call 1800 RFDS SA and ask for the on-call RFDS Doctor.

RFDS Pilatus PC-12 landing

Preparing for an RFDS crew to land

There are in excess of 2,000 landing strips in the RFDS network, many of which are used on a regular basis and many others that exist purely for medical visits.

Every day (and night), our crews rely on those on the ground to check for animals, airstrip conditions and hazards before we land at remote stations and communities.

Following this seven-step Airstrip Inspection Procedure helps to ensure safe landings on unsealed airstrips when you call on the Flying Doctor.

1. Identify wind direction

Aircraft always land into the wind.

2. Check the runway surface

  • Drive at 75km/h down the entire length of the airfield.
  • As you drive, the surface of the runway should feel smooth and firm.
  • The runway surface should be free from and ruts deeper than a 10c coin.
  • Remove any objects such as animal carcasses, twigs or large rocks.

3. Check twice for wildlife

  • Ensure there are no animals in the vicinity of the airfield.
  • If the airfield is fence, shut the gate.

4. Windsock

Check the condition of the windsock. It may need untangling.

5. Parking

Park at least 30m from the side of the runway.

Do not park at either end of the runway.

6. Remain clear

Stay clear of the aircraft until the propellor has stopped and the aircraft door is open.

7. No smoking!

Learn more about how the RFDS supports healthy and happy lives in SA/NT.