TUERONG farmer Peter Moran has been called an angel many times in his life, and not just by his adoring wife Karen.
The thoroughbred breeder and “accidental” pilot has spent more than a decade volunteering with Angel Flight to get patients to where they need to be for medical appointments all around Victoria.
To date, he has made 179 flights, providing a ride for people who would otherwise be unable to get the medicine and the medical help they need, and a friendly face and warm chat to put his patients at ease.
‘Peter the pilot’, as the 69-year-old is often called, says he loves what he does, despite never wanting to be a pilot until in his 50s when he took a ride with a friend and fell in love with the freedom of being in the sky.
“It was really an accident that I discovered flying, after I took a chartered light aircraft to visit the Kimberleys and fell in love with it so much that when I got back I went to Tyabb Airfield and signed up for lessons, and about one year later I was a pilot,” he said.
After a quick trip to America for licence endorsements, Mr Moran bought himself an airplane and the rest is history, as they say.
“When I heard about Angel Flight, I knew it was something I wanted to do, it’s such a great thing to be able to do, I love talking to my patients and helping them to relax and feel good for the time they are in my plane,” he said.
“Some of the patients are getting some pretty serious treatments, so it’s nice to be able to put their mind at ease and give them a little happiness for the time they are in my plane.
“It feels great being able to give back to the community after a fortunate life.”
Mr Moran remembers many uplifting moments with his charges, and still keeps in touch with some of them, occasionally popping in for a coffee when he’s next flying in their area.
So moved by his patients’ stories and predicaments, it is not unusual for the Moran’s to invite a patient home for lunch or even put a patient up for the night if weather has the plane grounded.
Angel Flight Australia is a charity that relies on volunteers to provide free medical transport to rural and regional people who need to attend city medical appointments.
It was launched as an Australian charity in April 2003, and is the initiative of Bill Bristow, a successful businessman, experienced pilot and winner of the Australian of the Year Award – Queensland 2005. Mr Bristow witnessed first-hand how charity flying in the US was making a difference to the lives of thousands of people.
“I was flying in the US with other pilots and they were sharing with me the extraordinary feeling they experienced through charity flying,” he said.
“I realized then Australia badly needed a similar service. With about 30 per cent of the Australian population living outside metropolitan areas a very large number of people do not have easy access to major hospitals and treatment centres.
“I decided I had to do something about it and returned home with a new sense of purpose.”
Stories told by his friends living in remote areas, and through his association with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Mr Bristow was acutely aware of the extreme hardship experienced by rural communities and the potential risk placed on their health when living away from the major metropolitan centres.
A registered Australian charity, Angel Flight is a not-for-profit operation that coordinates non-emergency flights for patients and families around the country in medical and financial need.
Angel Flight services are free to patients and carers, with pilots donating their time, their skills and the bulk of their aircraft costs for each flight. To help offset the pilots’ operating costs Angel Flight Australia negotiates aviation fuel discounts and the waiver of landing fees at airports around the country, and Airservices Australia reverse any air navigation charges. Donations are vital, and are used to fully subsidise fuel costs.
More information can be found on www.angelflight.org.au.