Flying for charity
JOHN Hillard of Mt Beauty has been an Angel Flight pilot for about 10 years, but has recently been putting his hand up for more and more assignments.
“It seems to me to be a worthwhile thing to do for people who have a valid need, and it’s also an excellent excuse to go flying,” he said.
Angel Flight is a charity that coordinates non-emergency flights to help country people trying to deal with the triple trouble of bad health, poor finances and daunting distance.
All flights are free and may involve patients travelling to medical facilities anywhere in Australia.
For Mr Hillard, the time factor is one of the greatest advantages of Angel Flight.
“I recently brought a lady from Orbost to Melbourne for chemotherapy, and although she was fine on the way in she felt very unwell on the way back, so being able to get her home quickly was a real advantage.
“There was also a chap from Cobar who was driving himself to Melbourne for treatment – a matter of eight hours – but Angel Flight could get him there in two and a half.”
The service is not like the Royal Flying Doctor service in that the pilot has no medical training and medical care is not available during the flight.
All passengers must be must be medically stable, ambulatory and physically able to enter and exit a small aircraft without assistance from the pilot and sit up in the aircraft with a seatbelt on for an extended period of time.
All of the volunteer pilots are qualified beyond the minimum requirements of CASA for private flight in Australia and the aircraft meet specified regulatory and insurance minimums.
Many residents of the Kiewa Valley have used Angel Flight’s services over the years, which include the ‘Earth Angels’ who meet passengers at the airport and drive them to appointments or accommodation.
Angel Flight does very little in the way of publicity or fund-raising, so Mr Hillard helps spread the word by speaking to community groups such as Probus groups and service clubs.
“We have a very small staff, so no-one has the time to publicise the service very much,”
Passengers are referred through their medical practitioner such as a doctor, nurse or social worker, and are encouraged to bring a carer along if the need assistance on the flight.