Angel Flight mark more than 20 years at Essendon Fields

Angel Flight is one of Australia’s great aviation charity success stories, which has had a strong connection with Essendon Fields Airport since its inception in 2003.

The charity coordinates free, non-emergency flights for those in rural areas needing medical assistance, who either don’t have the resources or ability to reach the help they need. Volunteers, with their own aircraft and time, offer to transport patients, with Angel Flight arranging the process and reimbursing pilots for their fuel consumption.

A number of these flights arrive into Essendon Fields Airport (YMEN), given its central location in Melbourne. In fact, since the charity’s inception more than 20 years ago there have been more than 3400 Angel Flights from Essendon Fields Airport plus 188 positioning legs. In 2023 alone there were almost 100 Angel Flights using YMEN as a base.

Three pilots who regularly conduct Angel Flights from Essendon Fields include Robert Payne, with 37 flights under his belt, Peter Banks, who has completed 41 flights and Eric Keys, who has completed 21 Angel flights (and is pictured with passenger Cheryl Charles, who he flew in November from Balranald to Essendon Fields for medical care).

“Essendon Fields has a number of specific advantages for Angel Flight and other missions – it’s more centrally located and close to major hospitals, it’s in Class C airspace, it has an ILS (Instrument Landing System) and doesn’t have as much beginner traffic as Moorabbin,’’ he said.

“We find the staff at Essendon Fields helpful and friendly. We have to cross a road when we taxi to and from our hangar which requires assistance from airport security and they are always happy to help out. And the refuellers and Air Traffic controllers are also friendly,’’ said Dr Keys.

The charity couldn’t operate across Australia without volunteers or donations. Flights each day involve a huge logistical exercise, and up to 20 flights a day will leave an airport somewhere in Australia. Angel Flight is also critical in lessening the load for Ambulance Victoria, by helping with non-emergency patient transport.

Angel Flight pilots do not carry aeromedical staff or medical equipment, so do not act as an alternative to the Royal Flying Doctor Service or Air Ambulance in their important capacity. They are, however, pivotal to the accessibility of medical treatment for many people throughout rural Australia.

“Angel Flight prides itself on providing a unique service that not only helps the person with health needs but the families whose lives are impacted. We live and breathe our philosophy ‘help where help is needed’,” said Angel Flight CEO Marjorie Pagani.

“The success of Angel Flight is due to the fact that our pilots gain enormous satisfaction from giving their skills and resources to help fellow rural Australians in need. It’s their way of making a very personal contribution to the community in which they live.”

Angel Flight encourages applications from pilots in Victoria to join as a volunteer as they have growing demand for rural missions in Victoria as well as South Australia and southern New South Wales. For more information or to donate to this important charity please visit