Tragic Beginnings

The New Zealand Flying Doctor was established in 1995 to primarily support the medical services on the West Coast and other remote and isolated areas of the South Island. Many of the South Island medical services are remote and the distance is vast to access better medical services in the appropriate specialist hospitals. All medical transfers are critical, and the NZ Flying Doctor Service provides this essential service to save lives and get better patient outcomes.
One of the first high-profile missions was to transfer medical teams from Christchurch to Greymouth to assist staff at Greymouth Hospital following the Cave Creek disaster on 27 April 1995.
Through the ongoing support of the community and the need to transfer people in a timely manner the NZ Flying Doctor Service has grown from these humble beginnings.




Many of the South Island medical services are remote and the distance is vast to access better medical services in the appropriate specialist hospitals.

Early Days

“Although we were operating the Rescue Helicopter in the South Island at the time, it was evident that there were times when you needed more than a rescue team and a helicopter. Those who were very sick and in hospital needed specialist care. They had to be transferred to a hospital that could provide advanced medical treatment. Sometimes the distances were vast and at other times the need for a pressurised aeroplane that can fly over 10,000 ft in order to fly over the Southern Alps. These pressurised aircraft keep the patient at sea level cabin pressure which is critical for very sick patients. Most of all they need to have specialised intensive care right through the journey from one hospital bed to another until specialised treatment is available at the destination.” Says John Currie who had the passion and the foresight to start this service for our communities.

When the service started it was crewed by Intensive Care Paramedics then soon after that Garden City Helicopters employed a specialist doctor as well as nurses so the patients were always receiving the same level of care throughout the transport. The service started as a small operation and has now grown to three Turbine aircraft and two bases flying over 1400 hours annually and transporting more than 1,000 patients.

In 2001 the Flying Doctor Service partnered with the CDHB and the NMDHB to provide specialised care throughout New Zealand with fully equipped aircraft and Intensive Care Doctors and Nurses to provide intensive care treatment while the patient is being transferred.

NZFD crew is sitting in an aircraft flying on a mission to save lives and create stories of success.

Why do we need support now?

Mission numbers have increased significantly in recent years resulting in a deficit between the government funding available (DHBs) and the demand for the service.
A new purpose built patient oriented Emergency Air Facility has also increased costs and new technologies and training are available to enhance patient outcomes.