RFDS Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 Jet

Australia's Earth Angels

370,000 reasons why we’re proud to call the RFDS our partners


Each year, the RFDS provides medical care to around 370,000 Australians. That’s 370,000 reasons why we’re proud to call them our partners – but here are three more:

Nothing is more important than health and safety. Ever.

Rio and the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) go back a long way. Just like the RFDS, we believe everyone deserves help, when help is needed most. That is why, since 2004, we have committed nearly A$40 million to the RFDS in Western Australia. And in 2020, we announced a five-year, A$1.25 million partnership with the RFDS in Queensland.

Our employees, communities, and neighbours live and work in some of the most remote parts of Australia. And the RFDS is there to help them, if they ever need it.

Andy and family

Andy's story

Andy is part of the rail network maintenance team that keeps our trains running safely and efficiently based out of Tom Price, in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

It is only now, looking back and understanding the need for the flight and the operation – and all the support I have had since - that I understood how close I came.

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On 24 October 2019 I woke up in the afternoon to get ready for night shift and I didn’t feel 100%. So I got up, walked to the bathroom and then… bang…the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor up against the bathroom door. I couldn’t move my leg or my arm, so I dragged myself out to get my phone. I called my crew mates for help but when I tried to speak it sounded like gibberish. I thought ‘oh my God, they won’t know what I am talking about’.

Luckily they knew something was wrong when I didn’t arrive for dinner at the mess. They came and found me in my room and called an ambulance which rushed me to the local hospital. The doctor on call suspected I was having a stroke, but they needed to do more tests to confirm whether it was a clot or a bleed. They arranged for the RFDS to fly me to Perth, 1,500km away, for a CT scan. I was so lucky to be able to see the specialist who found a clot deep in my brain and I was rushed in for emergency surgery.

I’m doing better but still have a long rehab journey in front of me – but the truth is, without the RFDS I probably wouldn’t even be here today.”

They are pioneers (and our heroes!)

In 1928 RFDS founder Reverend John Flynn saw the potential of new technology, such as aviation and radio communications, to help people living in some of Australia’s most remote areas. Today two Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jets – the world’s most advanced sky-based emergency ward – provide lifesaving medical care to the furthest reaches of Western Australia. And another jet is on the way in 2022.

Just like the RFDS, technology has helped us work more safely and efficiently too. We’re proud to play a part in helping the RFDS remain the most innovative, efficient and effective aero medical service provider in the world.

Royal Flying Doctor Service fast facts: Western Australia 2019/2020

9,033

Aeromedical Retrievals

1,234

Patients Treated on Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 Jets

7.96M

Kilometres Travelled

Ree's story

Ree, her husband Andy, and their three kids live in the Pilbara, Western Australia. 

The RFDS are my earth angels.

Ree and family

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I was nine weeks pregnant when I felt excruciating pain in my stomach.

The local doctors were worried I had an ectopic pregnancy and complications with my appendix too. So they called the RFDS to fly me 200kms from Karratha to Port Hedland for urgent surgery.

I remember feeling scared on the plane, but the nurse was great – we spoke about the full moon we could see, and that helped me feel calm. I had to have two operations in Port Headland – they removed my appendix as well as one of my fallopian tubes.

I recovered well from the surgeries but then at 29 weeks pregnant, I started having signs of early labour. So the RFDS flew me to King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth. Once again, the RFDS nurse and pilot were amazing: they made jokes to comfort me!

After two and a half months in hospital our little girl, Dakoda, was born safe and well. The RFDS are the reason why I am able to hold, feed, love and watch Dakoda grow. I will always be grateful for the RFDS and for those who support them.

Whether you’re a doctor or a miner, you need the right tools and training to do your job safely.

Simulation has helped us create remote, safe, but still real-life ways to train our truck, drill and train operators. In Queensland, our partnership with the RFDS will help build a world-class simulation hub, which will use virtual reality, augmented reality and interactive tools to train the state’s aeromedical team of the future. Our investment will also help the RFDS deliver essential health services – including mental health – across the state, help build a new patient transfer facility in Weipa and support an existing one at Gladstone – two Queensland communities we call home. This means RFDS doctors and nurses will be able to respond faster to help critically ill people.

You might say that the sky’s the limit on what we can achieve when we partner for progress.