A Dreamer's Vision

The "Flying Doctor" took off for the first time on May 15th 1928. Dr. K St.Vincent Welch and his pilot flew from Cloncurry in a DH50 aircraft to Julia Creek.

In 1917, a Victorian medical student Clifford PEEL, son of Charles Herbert PEEL & Susan EVERETT from Inverleigh, suggested to Rev John Flynn, Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission, that sick and injured people in outback areas could be treated by air ambulance.

Rev. Flynn envisaged a scheme using aeroplanes called up by wireless to remote areas. After Alfred Traeger, an electrical engineer, evolved a simple pedal radio, this was made possible. It took little imagination to see the advantage of this to the mail service, government officials, and businessmen; while to the outback settlers it was an undreamt of boon with regards to household supplies, medical attention and business.

In every new adventure there are initial trials, and so in establishing the air ambulance in the Inland there were many difficulties that meet every pioneer into the unknown.

The Scheme outlined by Cliff PEEL to the A.I.M.

CentreTo MilesTime (90 mph)
OodnadattaBirdsville 3253 38
  Alice Springs300 320
  Arltunga320 333
  William’s Creek90 10
  Todmontan H.S.75 050
  Macumba50 033
  Brown’s H.S.160 146
  Blood’s Creek Store100 17
  Charlotte Waters140 133
  Temple Downs H.S.290 233
  Mirra Mitta230 233
  Hergott220 226
Cloncurry Camooweal175 20
  Alexandra275 30
  Bourketown230 233
  Mornington Island320 332
  Normanton225 230
  Croydon210 219
  Middleton140 133
  Springvale200 214
  Bedourie275 30
  Dubois H.S.325 338
  Lake Nash200 214
Katherine Darwin160 146
  Oenpelli175 20
  Booraloorla300 320
  Daly Waters150 140
  Powell’s Creek275 30
  Wave Hill H.S.260 252
  Wyndham300 320
  Victoria River Depot160 146

From Oodnadatta, Alice Springs and Birdsville it was a trip of about three and a half-hours. When taken overland – it was a very long trek.

Cliff Peel said, "In the not very distant future, if our church folk only realise the need, I can see a missionary doctor administering to the needs of men and women scattered between Wyndham and Cloncurry, Darwin and Hergott. If the nation can do so much in the days of war, surely it will do its ‘bit’ in the coming days of peace – and here is its chance."

The Cost of Setting it Up

Four machines (one for each base, and one for the doctor working between the three bases) carrying 2,500 lbs., less petrol, oil and pilot, for 700 miles, doing 90 miles per hour.

Capital – 4 machines at AUD5,131 (£2,500) each = AUD20,523 (£10,000)

Sheds – 3 capable of holding 3 machines each = AUD1,231 (£600)

Running expenses – 700 miles. 56 gallons petrol, 12 gallons oil – 8d. per mile*

Depreciation and Repairs. An overhaul is considered necessary after every 100 hours flying.

The expenses of this will naturally depend on the conveniences at hand.

*English figures


Total carrying power 2500 lbs.

Petrol and Oil 556 lbs.

Pilot 170 lbs.

Spare rations, water and repair kit 40 lbs.


Total available for passengers, supplies etc 1734 lbs.

The credit side of the ledger I leave for those interested in the development of the hinterland to compute. Sufficient, however, to say that the heroes of the Inland are laying the foundation stones of our Australian nation.

We will do our share proportionately as the sense of brotherhood with our fellows directs our thoughts and actions.

J. Clifford Peel, Lieut.

At sea, Australian Flying Corps,

20/11/1917 A.I.F.

In the first 12 months, Dr. Welch flew 32,000 km in 50 flights and attended 255 patients. Flynn offered the service to the states, and in 1933 the state premiers developed the Inland’s Mission’s service into the Australian Medical Service.

Exerts taken from "A Young Australian’s Dream"

"Sunday Observer"

‘Lieut. Clifford Peel was killed while on active service with the A.F.C. over the battle lines on 20th November 1917.

Clifford Peel came from Inverleigh, Vic, where his father was well known. At the founding of the A.I.M. he became an ardent supporter, and followed the development closely throughout. When war broke out he was a medical student at the Melbourne University, and it is believed that he intended, eventually, to try and obtain a place serving the Inland. As the war progressed, and things looked uglier, however, he came to feel that his place was across the sea; so he abandoned studies, and entered the A.F.C. While on the voyage he still had his heart in the land he left behind, especially in the lonely interior, so his time was partly occupied in dreaming out and shaping the plan he sent back to the A.I.M. He thought it a practical method of bringing comfort and cheer to all the frontiers.’