By Jessica Anstice
Pilot by passion, David Roberts, has been volunteering his time with Angel Flights Australia since 2011.
The Pakenham man has clocked up more than 30 flights with Angel Flight, using a plane based at Moorabbin Airport.
Angel Flight is a charity that coordinates non-emergency flights to help country people trying to deal with the triple trouble of bad health, poor finances and daunting distance.
All flights are free and involve patients travelling to medical facilities anywhere in Australia.
“About eight years ago I saw the advertisements for Angel Flight and really thought I might like to get involved at some stage – for something useful to do,” Mr Roberts said.
“I already had a commercial licence because I used to fly for a living for 10 years.
With a bit of experience working in forestry in Western Australia and out in Bass Strait flying charter around, joining Angel Flight was an easy decision for Mr Roberts.
“It was just a good cause as well – having lived in country areas I know what it’s like for people to get to doctor’s appointments and how restrictive it is,” he added.
“I think it’s really important that these people get to attend without having the taxing of public transport or driving.”
Angel Flight, which regularly coordinates up to twenty flights per day, doesn’t carry aeromedical staff or medical equipment – just the pilot and the patient.
“It’s the people you meet that make it memorable. You meet someone who’s 17 that has had a stroke or someone who’s five that is blind – it’s quite confronting,” he said.
“Some of the people you meet are just amazing and you get to sit there and talk to them throughout the flight.”
During his time volunteering, Mr Roberts has flown to Mallacoota, Orbost, Marlo, Bairnsdale, Mt Beauty, Porepunkah, Bright, Albury, Wangaratta, Corowa, Deniliquin, Hay, Balranald, Mildura, Horsham, Stawell, Hamilton, Portland and even as far as Canberra.
“As an example, I flew an 86-year-old man from Deniliquin to Melbourne for his cancer treatment,” he said.
“He had been driving back and forth each week which took him eight and a half hours.
“I was his first ever time with Angel Flight and it only took us two hours to fly – that’s the difference. You’re actually giving people a life.”
Mr Roberts regularly presents at community clubs in Cardinia and wider Gippsland.