The New Zealand Flying Doctor Service flew 1,212 missions with over 2,000 flight hours in 2020

History: tragic beginnings

Established 26 years ago 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.

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.

About the NZFD service

When time is of the essence and distance is an issue, the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service is the only option for many patients.

This service provides critical-care patient transfer services between hospitals across New Zealand.

As a flying intensive care unit with highly trained medical staff and specialist equipment, patients receive a seamless level of care from bed to bed- they are in the safest of hands.

The service operates 24/7 transferring critical care burn victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers, trauma victims, surgery transfers, organ delivery, blood or equipment supplies.

In 2021 we were thrilled to announce our partnership with Williams Corporation Limited who have come on board as the Principal Sponsor of the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service.


The NZFD service started with 100 missions per year and quickly grew to 300 and now we do more than 751 missions from Nelson and 461 from Christchurch. The service does an average of more than 1200 missions per year. In 2020 flew 1,207 missions with over 2,000 flight hours in 2020, and this number is on the rise in 2021.

Current NZFDS Pilots – Christchurch 10, Nelson 4.

Current NZFDS Nurses- 17 full time nurses and 4 part time nurses.

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.

In 2020 alone we completed

1212 missions across New Zealand

We are so grateful

for the support of our community

We need to raise

3 million dollars every year