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Magnus’ flight path

Monday, 22nd July, 2013

Senior RFDS pilot Magnus Badger has served 25 years at the outback aero-medical service’s base in Broken Hill. Senior RFDS pilot Magnus Badger has served 25 years at the outback aero-medical service’s base in Broken Hill.

By Kurtis J Eichler

It has been 85 years since Rev. John Flynn’s dream of creating the Royal Flying Doctor Service came true. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the BDT’s Kurtis J Eichler is profiling some of those who work at the Broken Hill base.

Magnus Badger took to the skies as a tourist flight pilot before chance opened the door to helping save lives with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“I like flying in outback Australia and I was in Adelaide and I heard they needed pilots,” the 53-year-old senior RFDS pilot told the BDT.

“In those days I must have just rung up here and Clyde (Thomson) the boss said ‘I’ll see you over in Sydney’ on a certain date and I did an interview.”

That was in 1988 and since that day Mr Badger has flown a grand total of 13,000km to towns scattered across the South Eastern section, an area the size of France.

Born in Adelaide, it wasn’t until later in life when he was attending Prince Alfred College that piloting became a real career option.

“My father had always had a pilot’s licence and always flew a plane and I always thought I liked it,” he says.

He earned his pilot’s licence and took a job flying tourists around the Flinders Ranges for the Wilpena Pound Motel.

“They had their own airplane and I’d fly that for them, mainly around Wilpena Pound, Arkaroola and various places to the north of South Australia.”

At the age of 28, he started work in Broken Hill at the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at the airport.

A typical clinic day sees Mr Badger sign on at 6.45am to read the clinic manifest and organise the flight plan for that day.

He will check the weather, arrange fuelling and get engineers to do their daily inspections of the planes.

The crew of eight - two doctors, a women’s health nurse, mental health workers and sometimes others - fly out at 7.45.

“We could go out, say on a Wednesday, to Wilcannia and drop a couple of people off there - a doctor and a nurse perhaps - and then go across to White Cliffs with a doctor or dentist and then go up to Wanaaring or Hungerford or somewhere like that and drop some people there and stay there all day. 

“When the Hungerford clinic’s finished we’ll make our way back the same route.”

There are days however when he doesn’t get the luxury of time to organise, when there is an outback death, a fall from a motorbike, people are crushed or there are burns.

Flights are usually controlled and problems are few and far between. He says there is some pressure but he keeps a level head.

“Occasionally we’d get the aircraft bogged on wet airstrips. I’ve run into some emus once, hit a couple of kangaroos but no major damage.”

In the fairly little spare time he gets, Mr Badger takes regular trips back to Adelaide where he owns a house at Eastwood with wife and former RFDS doctor Elaine Powell and daughter Sally.

But he says when he retires he’d like to buy a plane again and travel further afield.

“I’d like to do trips around Australia. That would be good.”

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