Our history

From a single helicopter operation in 1986, CareFlight doctors and nurses now fly throughout Australia and beyond on helicopters, aeroplanes and medi-jets.

1986

May

CareFlight is incorporated as a public company.

June

CareFlight commissions its first helicopter, a Squirrel AS350B (VH-HCF).

July

Andrew Withers, 14, and his sister Heidi, 11, become CareFlight’s first helicopter patients following a car crash. They are flown from Lithgow to Westmead and both make a full recovery.

September

NSW Premier, Barrie Unsworth MP, officially opens the CareFlight Service.

CareFlight’s Dr Louis Gallur (L) is one of the rescue group awarded bravery medals for their rescue efforts.

1987

March

Multi-transport mode retrieval – helicopter, fixed wing and road ambulance – commences.

May

CareFlight becomes the first emergency helicopter service in NSW to go on 24-hour duty.

December

A fisherman is rescued after falling down a cliff face at Bluefish Point in Manly at night. CareFlight crew members receive a bravery award for their rescue efforts.

The CareFlight team is commended for the rescue.

1988

August

The CareFlight Stretcher Bridge, the world’s first fully integrated mobile intensive care module, enters service.

October

The Dauphin SA365C-2 helicopter is commissioned.

The CareFlight Stretcher Bridge.

1989

May

SCAT (Special Casualty Access Team) Paramedics from Ambulance Service join CareFlight.

Special Casualty Access Team paramedics join CareFlight.

1990

January

CareFlight implements medical registrar training after becoming the first Australasian non-hospital organisation to be granted accreditation for specialist training in critical care.

February

NSW Health Minister, Peter Collins MP, opens the Westmead operations base.

March

CareFlight conducts its first international retrieval, transporting a patient from Penang.

The Westmead operations base is opened.

1991

July

CareFlight’s 2,000th patient, six-month-old, Nathan Isedale, is flown to Camperdown Children’s Hospital after being admitted to Bowral Hospital with viral pneumonia.

Baby Nathan is CareFlight’s 2,000th patient

1994

October

CareFlight co-founder, Ian Badham, receives the international Association of Air Medical Services Marriott-Carlson Award.

December

The Bell 412HP helicopter arrives at the CareFlight Base.

Congratulations to CareFlight co-founder, Ian Badham

1995

January

The new Bell 412HP helicopter undertakes its first mission to a hang glider crash in the Blue Mountains.
CareFlight also conducts its first three-patient mission on the Bell helicopter, following a car crash near Tamworth.

CareFlight's Bell helicopter lands at the Sydney Opera House in 1995.

1996

April

In an Australian-first, the CareFlight medical team uses an intra-aortic balloon pump during a helicopter patient transfer.

July

CareFlight retrieves its 5,000th patient.

1997

June

CareFlight receives the Royal Humane Society’s commendation for the difficult rescue of an injured man at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains.

September

CareFlight is called to Bowral Hospital to retrieve 16-year-old, Eliza Stankovic, who is suffering from meningococcal disease. Dr Alan Garner spent 1.5 hours fighting to keep ahead of the spreading infection and stabilise her for transport. Eliza has both legs amputated below the knee, as well as some of her fingers, but goes on to become a Paralympian.

Eliza Stankovic makes a recovery and becomes a Paralympian.

1998

August

A 13-year-old girl is rescued from the flooded Nepean River seconds before she is swept over a weir. The CareFlight crew are later recognised for their bravery with a number of prestigious international awards.

December

CareFlight rescues seven sailors from the stricken yacht, Business Post Naiad, during wild storms in the Sydney-Hobart yacht race. The CareFlight crew later receive the Prince Philip Award and other wide recognition for the rescue efforts.

Prince Philip with a member of the CareFlight team.

2000

August

CareFlight’s Central West dedicated regional emergency helicopter is launched by NSW Health Minister, Craig Knowles MP, at Orange, and NSW Premier, Bob Carr, at Wellington.

September

In its first mission, the Central West CareFlight helicopter flies a patient from Condobolin.

The Orange CareFlight hangar is officially launched.

2001

May

CareFlight’s Central West helicopter Agusta A119 ‘Koala’ is launched at Darling Harbour.

CareFlight’s Agusta A119.

2002

February

CareFlight retrieves its 10,000th patient.

July

The first CareFlight Pre-Hospital Trauma Course takes place.

A Pre-Hospital Trauma Course in action.

2003

January

CareFlight attends the Waterfall train crash in which seven people are killed. CareFlight medical teams triage, treat and transport the injured. Two CareFlight doctors are part of the NSW-led team, performing 140 major operations, hundreds of minor procedures and assessing and treating numerous patients over a 10-day period.

CareFlight responds to the Waterfall train tragedy.

2004

May

CareFlight acquires the Agusta A109E helicopter for the Head Injury Retrieval Trial project.

December

CareFlight’s disaster cache is deployed to Banda Aceh in support of the Australian Civilian Surgical Team after the south Asian tsunami.

Two CareFlight doctors are part of the NSW-led Banda Aceh response team, performing 140 major operations and hundreds of minor procedures over a 10-day period.

2005

March

CareFlight and NRMA Insurance, in partnership with the Ambulance Service of NSW, launch the Head Injury Retrieval Trial in the presence of Premier Bob Carr MP.

May

HIRT accesses its first patient at Kurrajong.

Premier Bob Carr launches the Head Injury Retrieval Trial.

2006

February

NSW Member for Parramatta, Tanya Gadiel MP, officially opens the winch simulator at Westmead.

May

CareFlight treats five-year-old burns victim, Sophie Delezio, after she is hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing. The CareFlight medical team give Sophie a blood transfusion and place her on life-support before flying her to Randwick Children’s Hospital.

June

CareFlight’s rebuilt and enhanced disaster cache is deployed to earthquake-devastated Java in support of the NSW/ACT Australian Medical Assistance Team.

The winch simulator in action.

2007

February

CareFlight International Air Ambulance conducts its first mission out of Darwin.

February

CareFlight International flies East Timor’s President Ramos-Horta from Dili to Darwin under full intensive care, following a shooting assassination attempt.

March

CareFlight International Darwin service is officially launched by Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, The Hon Clare Martin.

May

CareFlight’s contract to provide helicopter services to the Ambulance Service expires, though CareFlight secures a seven-year contract to provide doctors to the NSW medical retrieval system.

October

CareFlight commences first contract to provide helicopter aeromedical evacuation to ADF exercises at Mt Bundey Training Range, NT.

November

HIRT operations are extended to the Central Coast.

December

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) grants approval to CareFlight to fly night operations using night vision goggle technology.

A helicopter seen through night vision goggles.

2008

April

CareFlight uses Night Vision Goggles (NVG) in an Australian civilian first when participating in a search and rescue mission to locate a lost plane off the NSW south coast.

December

CareFlight International Air Ambulance, now averages five to six missions per week, conducts a record 33 retrievals this month.

CareFlight Air Ambulance.

2009

January

Our helicopter service goes national as we provide aeromedical support to the Northern Territory government.

January

CareFlight conducts its inaugural NVG medical mission when flying a critically ill infant from Katherine to Royal Darwin Hospital.

February

In NT’s first civilian NVG search and rescue mission, CareFlight rescues a man trapped by rising floodwaters in crocodile infested territory.

October

CareFlight moves into new national headquarters, made possible by a generous grant from the MAA.

Our headquarters in Northmead, NSW.

2010

June

CareFlight commences nighttime HIRT operations using NVG.

July

Under an interim contract to the NT Government, CareFlight commences provision of fixed wing aeromedical services to the Top End.

October

CareFlight gains CASA certification to operate fixed and rotary wing aircraft under a single Air Operators Certificate (AOC).

Our fixed wing aircraft at our Darwin hangar.

2011

March

CareFlight launches MediSim, a mobile simulation-based trauma training program designed to support clinicians and first responders in rural and remote communities.

April

CareFlight purchases our first fixed wing aircraft, a B200 King Air turboprop plane.

June

The NT Government announces the award of a 10-year Top End Medical Retrieval Service contract to CareFlight.

July

CareFlight celebrates our 25th anniversary. We now conduct over 5,000 missions per year, flying from six bases to destinations around Australia and beyond.

November

Official launch of CareFlight MediSim by the mayor of Orange City Council, Councillor John Davis.

December

The Northern Territory Health Minister formally opens the Northern Operations building.

CareFlight’s MediSim workshop trains first responders across the country.

2012

February

CareFlight assumes responsibility for the provision of doctors to, and clinical coordination of, the Top End Medical Retrieval Service.

May

CareFlight achieves the highest award of certification for Quality in Health Management Systems, ISO 9001+ Core Health Standards.

June

CareFlight Medical Director and Chief HIRT Investigator, Dr Alan Garner, announces the outcomes of CareFlight’s Head Injury Retrieval Trial at the International Conference for Emergency Medicine in Dublin.

Our fixed wing aircraft against a Darwin sunset.

2013

January

Four near new Super King Air B200 aeroplanes enter service in the NT, after undergoing extensive modifications.

CareFlight commences provision of helicopter services specialising in the transfer of sick babies and children.

April

CareFlight Board approves PHANTOM (Pre-Hospital Assessment of Noninvasive Tissue Oximetry Monitoring) research project.

Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) presents CareFlight with the 2013 Excellence in Community Service Award for the MediSim program (AAMS award).

August

CareFlight achieves AS4801 OHS quality certification.

CareFlight NT moves into the new state-of-the art Darwin hangar, the largest dedicated aeromedical facility in Australia.

September

Broken Hill sees CareFlight train its 1,000th first responder through the MediSim Trauma Care Workshop program.

CareFlight NT moves into the new state-of-the-art Darwin hangar, the largest dedicated aeromedical facility in Australia.

2014

March

CareFlight secures a six-year contract to provide aeromedical support to INPEX for their Ichthys oil and gas operations off the coast of WA.

June

CareFlight’s new state-of-the-art Agusta AW139 helicopter comes online in the NT.

June

The fully inter-operational I-CARE stretcher system, designed by CareFlight, INPEX and Aeronautical Engineers Australia, enters service.

CareFlight's Agusta AW139 helicopter.

2015

February

CareFlight marks 10 years of rapid response service with Past Patients Day.

November

In a complex, time-critical mission involving two helicopters, a long-range air ambulance and two Darwin-based medical teams, CareFlight rescues the pilot of a mustering helicopter that crashed on a remote station in the NT.

December

Christmas Eve sees CareFlight’s first international mission on the CareFlight owned and operated medijet. This brings our jet operations completely in-house, achieving the goal of providing a fully integrated aeromedical service.

The crew following the first international mission on the CareFlight owned and operated medi-jet.

2016

May

CareFlight celebrates 30 years of saving lives, speeding recovery and serving the community.

May

The number of CareFlight bears bought by CareFlight supporters over the last 25 years reached two million bears, raising $100 million to help save lives!

A CareFlight bear visits Uluru.

2017

March

CareFlight launches our Reconciliation Action Plan outlining our commitment to First Australians and our detailed plans to better embed cultural understanding across the organisation.

December

NSW Health awards CareFlight a long-term contract to provide fixed wing patient transport services in northern NSW. This Patient Transport Service (PTS) aims to give more people in regional and rural areas access to a higher level of health care by transporting patients to major tertiary hospitals for specialist treatment.

Launching our Reconciliation Action Plan from our headquarters.

2018

April

CareFlight becomes the first service in Australia to routinely carry plasma to accident scenes. The first patient is a 74-year-old man involved in a motor vehicle accident.

March

In partnership with Darwin International Airport, CareFlight constructs a second new purpose-built hangar in the Top End to house our growing fleet.

May

CareFlight appoints new CEO, Mick Frewen, to replace retiring CEO, Derek Colenbrander. Mick joins CareFlight after an exemplary and varied career in both business and the Australian Armed Forces.

August

The Northern Territory Government’s Top End Health Service awards CareFlight a contract to deliver a road transport solution to move high and low acuity patients between the new Palmerston Regional Hospital (PRH) and Royal Darwin Hospital.

August

The NSW Rural Fire Service contracts CareFlight to assist with preventative bush fire measures including fire-bombing and backburning pre-fire season. CareFlight Fire and Flood Response pilots and aircrew officers help fly the RFS helicopters.

Aaron Foley is one of our first plasma transfusion patients.

2019

December

The Reputation Institute names CareFlight as the most reputable charity in Australia based on measures of trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem.

Australia’s most reputable charity.

2020

February

CareFlight launches the second stage of our Reconciliation Action Plan which focuses on further developing and strengthening relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, engaging staff and stakeholders in reconciliation, and developing and piloting innovative strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

April

The Australian Government provides funding to CareFlight as part of an aeromedical retrieval package to increase Australia’s capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

July

The Northern Territory Government appoints CareFlight as its dedicated aeromedical evacuation services jet provider, with a five-year solution that introduces a new Gulfstream G150 jet.

CareFlight enters into the second stage of our Reconciliation Action Plan.

2021

February

CareFlight unveils our new world-class helicopter at the Sydney Opera House. The H145 helicopter is the first aeromedical aircraft of its kind in Australia, can be airborne within three minutes of activation and with a flight speed of up to 250km/hr can reach patients in Sydney, Blue Mountains and Central Coast within 15 minutes. Patients in Greater Sydney now have improved access to lifesaving treatment with the addition of one of the world’s most advanced aeromedical aircraft to our fleet.

April

CareFlight launches a new Gulfstream G150 jet, representing a new generation of aeromedical retrieval for the Northern Territory and Australia. The G150 jet is the first aeromedical aircraft of its kind in the country and was carefully selected as the standout aircraft to deliver CareFlight’s inter-hospital aeromedical jet evacuation service on behalf of the Northern Territory Government.

July

Mounties Care comes on board as naming rights partners to the CareFlight Rapid Response Helicopter Service, helping ensure the ongoing viability for one of the most advanced aeromedical helicopters in Australia. The H145 helicopter is branded Mounties Care CareFlight Helicopter.

The Mounties Care CareFlight Helicopter is launched into service.