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Flying on the Wings of an Angel


If you need specialist medical help which is necessary but not critically urgent, and you can’t afford to get yourself to your nearest hospital, then help is at hand, or rather, angels’ wings are at hand.

That help comes in the form of a unique NZ-wide network of experienced pilots and their small aircraft, known as “Angel Flight.” At no cost to the patient or caregiver, Angel Flight will transport them to the nearest hospital which has the right facilities and specialists to treat the patient’s condition.

Provided the patient doesn’t qualify for the Air Ambulance and would find road transport taxing or difficult, then Angel Flight can help.

Once at their destination, another group of volunteers, called Earth Angels, drive the patient and caregiver to the hospital, and after treatment return them to the airfield, to be flown home again.

The pilots donate their time, the use of their planes, their expertise, and their fuel, to ensure the patient receives proper care in good time.

Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 20th March, Wellington Earth Angel Driver Steve Lowe, a resident of Whitby, explained that the organisation had been the brainchild of Lance Weller, an experienced pilot and aeroplane owner from Whangarei. In 2011 Mr Weller approached the Rotary Club of Whangarei, who granted him the seed money to get the venture off the ground.

To illustrate the difference Angel Flight could make, Mr Lowe gave an example of a patient from Kaitaia who needed hospitalisation for his health condition. “The family could only afford to pay for public transport, but that would have taken two days for the trip to Auckland. With Angel Flight, he was there in less than two hours.”

There were some strict conditions which Angel Flight always adhered to. “The patient must be certified in writing by their health professional as being fit to fly to the hospital and back home again. Also, adult patients need to be able-bodied enough to climb into and out of the plane.”

Many of the patients transported were children, who were usually travelling to either Starship or Christchurch hospitals. Mr Lowe showed a photo of a young boy in a wheelchair who was able to travel with Angel Flight after the pilot lifted the boy into one of the back seats in the plane, and strapped his wheelchair into the other seat.

Angel Flight was particularly helpful for people in rural areas. As long as there was a good grass airstrip nearby, the patient could be transported without any problems. ”That’s the beauty of our planes – they are small enough to operate in this way.”

The main problem faced by Angel Flight was adverse weather. “We were asked recently to transport a patient to Auckland Hospital but there was a cyclone approaching and so we had to decline to assist on that occasion.”

For more information, or to make a donation, please visit their website.  

Flying on the Wings of an Angel

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