What is Flying Doctor Day?

On 17 May 2022, RFDS will celebrate Flying Doctor Day and 94 years of proudly providing emergency aeromedical and essential health care services to the Australian community.

Reverend John Flynn’s vision to provide a mantle of safety for those living in remote areas of Australia took off on the morning of 17 May 1928 when the inaugural flight departed from Cloncurry to retrieve two patients. 

Dr Kenyon St Vincent Welch and Pilot Arthur Affleck took off in a single engine De Haviland 50 bi-plane named Victory.

Historic RFDS photo

The first pilot, Arthur Affleck, had no navigational aids, no radio and only had a compass. 

He navigated by landmarks such as fences, rivers, riverbeds, dirt roads or just wheel tracks and telegraph lines. If the plane went down, there was no way to call for help.

This flight marked the beginning of one of the world’s first aeromedical services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

In its inaugural year, the Aerial Medical Service (which changed its name to the Royal Flying Doctor Service) flew 50 flights to 26 destinations and treated 225 patients.

Today, in a year the RFDS provides the finest care to more than 320,000 Australians - one person every one and half minutes.

Last year, in the midst of a global pandemic the Flying Doctor in WA recorded the busiest year in our long history. As demand continues to grow our team of 400 Pilots, Doctors, Flight Nurses, Engineers, and support crew work tirelessly every day of the year to provide 24-hour emergency retrieval service and primary health care to remote communities.

Flying Doctor Day is an opportunity to celebrate our rich history and recognise the efforts of the frontline crews working to provide excellent aeromedical and primary health care. Together with support from the Australian community, we deliver on the quintessential sense of what it means to be Australian – that a mate is going to be there when you need them most.