A brave and courageous pilot and Dr

RFDS AIRCRAFT: The King Air plane has transported many patients from remote and rural areas around Queensland. Photo: Lydia Lynch
RFDS AIRCRAFT: The King Air plane has transported many patients from remote and rural areas around Queensland. Photo: Lydia Lynch

The Royal Flying Doctors Service’s 90th anniversary is a significant and historic milestone.

The Chairman of the RFDS Queensland section and member of the National Board, Mark Gray said it’s an honour and a privilege to carry on the vision and traditions of our founder Reverend John Flynn.

On Thursday 17 May the RFDS reenacted the first flight to Julia Creek .

“The flight will be exactly 90 years ago,” Mr Gray said.

In 1928 there was no internet, smart phones and no computers. Televisions were under development at the time.

“The British monarch was King George V and our Prime Minister was Stanley Bruce and the population of Australia was only 6.3 million people.”

The world was on the threshold of the Great Depression.

“In the same year the RFDS was founded, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was the first person to fly solo across the Pacific ocean.

APPLICATION TO FLY: Kenyon St Vincent Welch was an outstanding surgeon from Sydney. Photo: Supplied

APPLICATION TO FLY: Kenyon St Vincent Welch was an outstanding surgeon from Sydney. Photo: Supplied

“And Qantas – the Flying Kangaroo – was in its formative years in Cloncurry,” he said.

Pilot Arthur Affleck and the very first flying doctor, Kenyon St Vincent Welch took off in a timber and fabric biplane named Victory.

“The plane was leased from Qantas for two shillings per mile flown,” Mr Gray said.

The plane had no navigational aids including no radio.

“He navigated by landmarks like fences, riverbeds, dirt roads and telegraph lines.”

The cockpit of the plane was open so Arthur Affleck was fully exposed to the weather.

“The airstrips were clay pans or hasty cleared paddocks,” Mr Gray said.

What a brave and courageous effort that first flying doctor mission must have been.”

Back in 1928 the flight took over two hours but today the modern RFDS aircraft can complete the flight in 15-20 minutes.

Kenyon St Vincent Welch, the flying doctor, was selected from 22 applicants after responding to an advertisement in the Australian Medical Journal.

Dr Welch took up his duties at Cloncurry on May 15, 1928 just two days before the emergency call from Julia Creek. 

Two patients at the Julia Creek Bush Nursing Home were in need of medical treatment, one of whom had attempted suicide by trying to cut his own throat.

The two courageous men landed nearby and successfully performed two minor operations