Heroes of the skies

Alice Springs, NT, AU

There was one thing the camels, or the train that replaced the camels, couldn’t help us with.

Something that was a serious point of consideration for us when we decided to come out into the pretty much completely uninhabited ‘Red Centre’ of a country that takes a sense of personal pride from the fact that a swift and painful demise is never more than a few feet away even in the most urbanized of areas…

…oh lets not forget the ever present and very real threat of detesticulation

And that thought was “Ok, so what happens if we’re a few thousand miles from the nearest hospital…

(because here, that actually happens somewhat often)

…and we end up getting detesticulated?  What do we do!?!

(Perhaps you may say “come on Greg, you were in the middle of the Pacific ocean for months!  You haven’t gotten used to this yet?! 

To which Greg responds “getting mugged by a kracken in the middle of the night 500 miles from land is something I’m willing to handle on the fly…but the threat of having my reproductive organs forcibly egressesed from my personage demands risk mitigation.”)

At any rate…should this occur, what we have come to find out is that a doctor gives you your own free private airplane ride!

A typical RFDS plane, thanks to Wikipedia for the pic

Which is so way better than a lollypop!

Oh, except if you’re an American.

The Royal Flying Doctors are simply amazing.  Their promise is a simple one:

Wherever you are, in whatever blasted wasteland you find yourself no matter how incredibly remote, if you call we will come get you.  We will show up with a plane…kitted out as a flying hospital…complete with your own personal doctor onboard…and not only will we save your life but we will then take your broken body…in said plane…with said doctor (did we mention pilots?  Yeah, obviously pilots too) all the way back to a hospital to get medical treatment, no matter how far that distance happens to be.

For this they charge nothing.

But as cool as that sounds it doesn’t exactly fit on a logo, so they go with the summary version:

As an American the pure audacity of this promise blew Greg away and he insisted we make a stop at the Alice Springs center.

After the presentation where they showed us the 5.5 million miles these doctors flew in the process of saving lives in the past year alone we asked for some clarification for whom, exactly, would these doctors, pilots, nurses and planes scramble for free.  In other words,

“So, what happens if you’re not an Australian?”

“Well, if you’re from most of the European countries or Canada you’re covered the same way.”

“What about Americans?”

“Oh, sorry, we have to charge Americans.”

This was shocking to us.  Here we are in the country that, to the present date, picks up lost American hikers and drives them into town in order to say “thanks for saving Darwin in WW2” and the Royal Flying Doctors are charging for pick ups?  When we asked for clarification the guide explained to us that it had nothing to do with our nationality, it’s was simply due to the fact that the US has no reciprocals with Australia for medical care.

To be fair, if we’re going to charge an Australian to use our ambulance, then probably using their freaking flying hospitals should come with a tab.

Also, the charges are basically for gas.  Which, though not inconsequential, is pennies to the mile when compared to the average ambulance trip in the states.

The doctors, the pilots, the equipment, the medicine, the saving of our butts in the back of beyond…all that’s still free.


Because no matter who you are,

No matter where you are,

They will come get you.

And they will bring you back.


You can learn more about these everyday heroes of the skies of Australia on their website.


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!

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