Airplane shadow over desert

Keep Flynn flying

Joining forces with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to keep Australia’s emergency wards flying in the sky

Last updated: 9 September 2019


Meet Reverend John Flynn; you may have seen him before in your wallet or purse if you live down under or have visited Australia. He's the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and features on the Aussie $20 note.

Before the RFDS there was little medical help for people who lived in remote parts of Australia, far from cities. If they were seriously injured they had to travel hundreds of kilometres by horse, cart, or camel to reach a doctor.

Let's step back in time

John Flynn's vision was to create a "mantle of safety" for these communities, and in 1928 he opened the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service, later to be the RFDS.

Since the RFDS's inception, they have been helping people in the most remote regions of Australia to get medical help. Back then the team used to use camels in rural areas. But they were a little slow and unpredictable. And that's why in 1928 the RFDS welcomed their first ever aircraft – the Victory.

'Victory', the original RFDS aircraft
The original RFDS aircraft, 'Victory'

Since then the RFDS fleet has evolved with technologies and innovations. Rio Tinto joined forces with RFDS, committing A$22.5 million of funding, which includes $10 million towards two new Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jets. They ensure patients anywhere in Western Australia can be reached within approximately three hours.

The Rio Tinto LifeFlight jet is the most advanced emergency ward in the sky. The Pilatus PC-24 can fly to where it's needed most at max cruising speed of 815km per hour. That's six times faster than RFDS' beloved Victory.

"The new Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jets are a game changer in aero medical care, enabling reduced flight times and increased capacity for patients and medical teams," says Rebecca Tomkinson, RFDS chief executive.

The jets can fly for over 3,500km without refuelling and can land on all kinds of airstrips, which is what the RFDS need to reach and treat people living in the outback. It means the RFDS can get to people twice as fast to save more lives.

RFDS Rio Tinto LifeFlight jet
The Rio Tinto LifeFlight jet is six times faster than the Victory

RFDS fast facts

26.9M km

Flown by RFDS last financial year


Patients flown by RFDS’ expert teams


Patients transported by road


Episodes of dental care provided


Telehealth consultations conducted


Clinics conducted


Medical chests provided


Air bases across the country


Aircraft in national fleet


Healthcare vehicles in national fleet