Howard Hobbs signs on for Angel Flight

Three new directors join Angel Flight

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Howard Hobbs and his Mooney M20J.

Howard Hobbs and his Mooney M20J.

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He's been flying around rural Australia since 1987 and has a good understanding of the challenge that distance brings to people in the bush trying to access medical specialists, which makes Howard Hobbs a perfect choice to be an Angel Flight director.

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He's been flying around rural Australia since 1987 and his family has operated a sheep and cattle grazing business at Tambo since 1914, each of which gives Howard Hobbs a good understanding of the challenge that distance brings to people in the bush trying to access medical specialists, and which makes him a good choice to be an Angel Flight director.

His 12 years as councillor and chairman of the Tambo Shire Council, and 29 years in parliament representing the seat of Warrego, give him the perfect grounding to help the national charity that coordinates non-emergency medical flights for people in remote areas.

Together with long-term Angel Flight volunteer pilot and the organisation's safety manager Dr Owen Crees, plus one of Australia's most prominent kidney transplant physicians Professor David Gracey, the trio have been welcomed as significant and passionate contributors to the charity's cause.

Both Mr Hobbs and Dr Crees fly Mooney planes and it was through its pilots association that the pair met and shared their interest in aviation issues.

Mr Hobbs took part in the 2018 general aviation summit in Wagga Wagga, which concluded with resolutions aimed at altering Australia's regulatory practice to stop the decline in the industry while improving safety, and then Dr Crees convinced him to give Angel Flight a hand.

"It's the greatest organisation - they've shifted something like 100,000 people in the last 15 years," Mr Hobbs said. "I know a lot of people who have used the service and they're all very appreciative of it - the volunteer effort is extraordinary."

Read more: CASA wants to clip Angel Flight wings

Not content with a board position, Mr Hobbs has signed on as an Angel Flight volunteer pilot although he is yet to undertake his first mission.

"I didn't have time to do any flights after getting everything organised and then COVID-19 came along and a lot of specialist treatment got suspended," he said.

As an instrument rated pilot with just under 5000 flying hours under his belt, the people he transports in future will be in good hands.

He is even happy to admit he's had one crash landing when his engine failed en route from the family property at Tambo to Roma, thankfully finding a laneway on Forestvale north of Mitchell to make a landing on.

"I'm enthusiastic to do a few flights, and more so to see Angel Flight get stronger and assist more people to get the help they need," he said.

"As far as the CASA issue goes (it has been attempting to introduce a new minimum safety standard that has the potential to ground the charity), it's very frustrating.

"I keep asking, what can be their motivation - either they're incompetent or they're being manipulated in some way.

"We just need political will to show the misjustice in this."

First physician

Professor David Gracey, the first doctor to join the iconic national, non-emergency free medical flight provider, said he was honoured.

"Angel Flight is an organisation that holds a special place in Australia's heart, and in particular, rural and remote Australians.

"Undertaking my initial medical training in Western Australia, I understand first-hand the challenges remote families have in accessing vital medical treatment and the difference it can make to a family when the burden of cost in travelling long distances is removed.

"I am excited to use my new role to be an advocate for the work of Angel Flight and draw attention to the needs of regional communities, and I encourage my medical colleagues and health policy makers to support the work of Angel Flight, its volunteer pilots and Earth Angel drivers."

Angel Flight CEO and director Marjorie Pagani said the charity was privileged to have Dr Gracey join its governance team, particularly given his high level of expertise and commitment, both Australia-wide and internationally, to providing medical help and training to disadvantaged rural and remote communities.

"We look forward to continuing our unparalleled service to rural and remote Australians and to ensuring we continue to progress our service and safety culture," she said.

Related: CASA to face Senate enquiry

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