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


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.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said "The health and safety of our people and the communities where we operate are critical to Rio Tinto. That's why we've been proud to support the wonderful work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service for the past 35 years."

The health and safety of our people and the communities where we operate are critical to Rio Tinto.
- Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive

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

Augmented Reality (AR) brings John Flynn back to life

Would it be possible to bring Reverend John Flynn back to life to help keep the RFDS emergency wards in the air?

The answer is yes. Using pioneering AR technology through keepflynnflying.com, anyone can scan a A$20 on their smartphone to discover the history and the future of one of the most beloved Australian organisations.

John Flynn on the Australian $20 note

Rebecca Tomkinson chief executive, RFDS said "We are delighted to partner with Rio Tinto to raise awareness about the Royal Flying Doctor Service and encourage public donations to keep our vital service in the air through this unique smartphone experience."

"While the Rio Tinto LifeFlight jets are a great asset to WA, we know it costs a lot of money to keep them in the sky. That's why we're now raising important funds to ensure the RFDS can afford to service and maintain the jets and continue their vital services across the state.

"We're calling on Australians to help 'Keep Flynn Flying', with Rio Tinto matching all donations up to $100,000 made on the RFDS Give Easy fundraising page."

RFDS Fast Facts

26.9M km

Flown by RFDS Last Financial Year

38,052

Patients Flown by RFDS’ Expert Teams

75,311

Patients Transported by Road

21,828

Episodes of Dental Care Provided

88,188

Telehealth Consultations Conducted

16,209

Clinics Conducted

2,338

Medical Chests Provided

23

Air Bases Across the Country

71

Aircraft in National Fleet

124

Healthcare Vehicles in National Fleet