Angel dentist flies 145 missions to help the sick
A DENTIST one day, using his love of flying to help others the next.
This is Angel Flight pilot Peter Martin, who has taken the skies of the Northern Rivers with the service for more than a decade, carrying out 145 missions to assist the sick in remote areas.
A habit of falling asleep in front of the TV one night piqued a lifelong love of flying for Mr Martin when he was 23.
Mr Martin remembers waking up in the middle of the night to "a beautiful 747 just doing this sweeping turn" on the screen when he thought to himself: "I'm going to do that."
The local dentist's hobby eventually transformed into an outlet to help others through Angel Flight.
Transporting the sick from around the state and beyond in his bright red Cessna 172, Mr Martin has forged unique relationships with some of his patients.
"When you are taking the same person over multiple flights they are the ones I tend to recall most clearly," he said.
"Over a period of years, you're sort of watching them with their ups and downs.
"You do get to know these people quite well."
Mr Martin recalled one stormy flight that threw one mission to Inverell onto an unexpected course to Hunter Valley with a patient named Kurt.
As the weather became increasingly tumultuous, Mr Martin made the call to turn back to Williamtown where he offered Kurt two choices.
The first, arrange alternative transport for Kurt to go to Inverell.
The second was to stay with Mr Martin and go trotting around the vineyards for a couple of days until the weather enabled the pair to fly to Inverell.
Kurt chose the latter.
"The cliche of the tyranny of distance" is one of the main things that keeps Mr Martin flying.
"I think it's very rewarding to be able to use the privilege that I have to be able to fly an aeroplane for the benefit of getting people, who find themselves in circumstances physically, or economically difficult to say the least, to where they have to go," he said.
Mr Martin extends his gratitude to all who help keep the service in the air from the "earth angels" who transport the patients when they touch down to the airports who support the service and its patients.
In the next 10 years, Mr Martin sees himself hopefully completing another 100 missions.
"Will I do another 145? If I can retain a valid medical for that long it's quite possible," he said.