Days Out: Flying Doctors, Alice Springs

Were you a fan of 1980s Australian medical drama-rama, The Flying Doctors? To be honest, I wasn’t really, but it was probably where I first learned about Australia’s flying doctor service and – as one of the things to do in Alice – wanted to see the visitor’s centre, which – refreshingly – makes no mention of the TV Show!


The centre is in a row of low buildings, most of the others are outbuildings for the nearby hospital (which makes sense).  The receptionist greeted me warmly – the place was near to empty, just a small tour group from America finishing up their visit as I arrived.


The centre has a series of small rooms laid out with memorabilia from the archives of the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Reverend John Flynn.


They are interspersed with models of the early aircraft used to reach Australia’s burgeoning Outback and remote populations.




On the right, you can see a graphic of a human body, split in the diagram into sections to allow a local nurse (or non-medical person in many cases) communicating over the telephone or by telegraph with a doctor, to describe and locate symptoms or problems.


The original medical supplies used by flying doctors were on display. I imagine this would be very interesting to anyone with medical training.


The centre made extensive (I mean, extensive) use of these ‘holograms’ which were projections on to a human-shaped piece of upright metal or plastic.


The shop was hugely impressive as it took up more floor space than the entire exhibition!


Of course, there is a replica plane right in the middle of the building and that is most impressive of all!


At the top of each hour, the main attraction is a hologram of the founder, introducing a documentary on the history of the service.  I was the only person there. Even the lady working in the shop nearly had a heart attack when she saw me wandering around as she’d thought I was with the American tour!


The documentary was very good, but you have to ask what a hologram adds to it. Really nothing at all.  I can only imagine there was a grant given to the hologram studio and it needed to be used up for a not-for-profit organisation.


The hat was out and on!


Do I look like I’m about to fly off?


Okay, maybe not.

Only about then did I realise the plane was kitted out and you could climb into it!


It’s a tight space but can take 4 ill passengers and 2 ‘ambulant’ passengers (still walking).


This is a visit well worth going to. It’s easy to be dismissive (of holograms), but this service is really the inspiration for other services like this around the world.  A little later in my trip, in Kakadu, a man sitting in front of me had a TIA or mild stroke and a helicopter from the Flying Doctors came for him from Darwin out into the monsoonal plains 4.5 hours away.  More of that in an upcoming post…

Makes you think…