TYABB horse breeder Peter Moran spends much of each week flying around the country picking up patients and taking them to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide hospitals.
He’s part of Angel Flight, which offers flight services to the sick and injured living in regional areas. He and his team provide a fast, free and safe service to those requiring medical treatment.
Under the scheme, pilots donate their time and aircraft to transport outlying patients into the city for care, saving them long road trips that would be beyond their physical capabilities, especially if recovering from the effects of chemo and radiation therapies.
Mr Moran, 62, has just completed his 100th Angel Flight – this time from Hillston, western NSW, into Sydney. He flew from Tyabb – at his own expense – to Bankstown airport to collect a girl, 8, undergoing hospital treatment for serious injuries, and her mother.
His generosity saved the family a nine hour drive and allowed them to return home to recover in familiar surroundings.
While not all these patients win their battles with illness, it is clear that they get more out of life thanks to Angel Flight. Many do recover and are happy to acknowledge that the service has made a significant contribution towards their wellbeing.
“It’s a reality check for me,” Mr Moran said from his Stumpy Gully Rd property yesterday. “It brings home to me just how great my life has been and how lucky I am to be able to help others.”
After four years behind the controls of his Cessna 172, he still thrills to the smiles on the faces of his patients and the gratitude they have for someone content to help them for no reward.
One case involving a patient from Bright, in north-east Victoria, still has him emotionally involved years later: “I went up to transport a woman with stomach cancer and she vomited as soon as she got out of the car when she was driven to the airfield. I could see she was really ill.
“Flying her to the city for treatment was the only option and we made many flights together. I got to know her family and got personally attached to them.
“We probably bought her a year’s extra life and, of all my flights, that’s been the most meaningful.”
Giving to others runs in the family. Mr Moran’s wife, Janet, runs Riding for the Disabled on the peninsula and “gets a lot out of it.”
Up to 15 pilots from Tyabb have assisted with Angel flights over the years. “Once you see the difference it makes to people’s lives you get hooked,” Mr Moran said.
“As I get older I hope to do more for others. I feel privileged to have a pilot’s licence and to be healthy.”
To his surprise, in the early days he found that many patients had never been up in a light aircraft: some had never flown at all. “One lady from a remote area did not open her eyes once, even though I was pointing out the sights all the way. She was very apprehensive.”
Reaching 100 “missions” didn’t become a goal until he reached No. 94: “It was then that I thought I would really like to do it. It was that and also the respect I had for the patients.”
Peninsula Aero Club is full of praise for Mr Moran and the other Angel Flight volunteer pilots.
“They get up at the crack of dawn and fly out to collect patients up to a thousand kilometres away, then fly them into the city and back again,” vice president Jack Vevers said.
“Sometimes Peter will stay overnight, paying for his own accommodation, before collecting a patient in the morning. These are long days and often they are not home until well after dark – and all the while donating their own time and their aircraft.”
Although landing fees for Angel aircraft are waived and fuel is supplied by sponsors and donations to Angel Flight, normal running expenses far outstrip these minor contributions.
“On the upside I have been to places that I wouldn’t normally go,” Mr Moran said.
Angel Flight is looking for more community support, perhaps from those who could act as an Earth Angel who volunteers to pick up patients from the airport and drive them to hospital. Others may prefer to offer cash donations. Those interested should log onto angelflight.org.au for more information.