The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Tasmania celebrates its 60th anniversary after a reign that has seen so much help given to those in need.
The RFDS in Tasmania was formed on September 12, 1960, and saw its first flight undertaken from Hobart on September 14 to pick up the medical supervisor from Queenstown Hospital who was suffering from acute appendicitis.
The first plane flight from Launceston once the RFDS began in Tasmania was on September 19, 1960.
It was in a SAAB 91C ‘Safir’ and flown by Tasmanian Aero Club chief flying instructor Neil Beattie.
The flight was undertaken during the night and was to Flinders Island.
Former RFDS Tasmania chair and former pilot Lindsay Millar said the runway would have been lit by flares and to undertake the night flight was a challenge in a light aircraft.
“That flight was very significant,” he said. “Margaret contacted me to say she had Neil’s logbook with that entry of the very first flight.”
In other news:
Mr Millar recounted tales of the early days, chuckling when he mentioned to fit one man in the plane they had to unscrew the plane itself and re-screw it back together to transport him.
Mr Millar said there have been significant changes from then to now with aircraft and the air ambulance service taking over the aeromedical running since 1998.
However, the RFDS is contracted to supply pilots, aircraft and the base and the two organisations work seamlessly together to provide care.
Mr Beattie’s old logbooks from his time in the RFDS were presented to the service recently and one of those showed his first flight.
Margaret Beattie, Neil’s wife, said most of the trips he completed were life-saving, and he would get called out at random times to save people’s lives.
“You didn’t plan things around Christmas,” she said.
Ms Beattie said the anniversary is special and she feels fortunate to look back at 60 years worth of memories.
RFDS Tasmania chief executive John Kirwan said September is a key month for RFDS Tasmania.
“Here we are 60 years later and we’ve grown enormously, finding new and holistic ways to take care of the health needs of those living in rural and remote Tasmania,” he said.
“Our outreach services, taking physical, mental and dental health care to where it’s needed most, are heavily subscribed and the demand, especially for mental health support, is expected to grow.”
Mr Kirwan said the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the 60th-anniversary celebrations but that will restart from now and continue into 2021.