CENTRAL Wheatbelt farmer and pilot Greg Rutherford is part of a non-profit group called Angel Flight providing vital services to critically ill country people.
Earlier this month Greg, who has been flying for 31 years, completed his first Angel Flight mission when he flew critically ill cancer patient Jan Trotter and her partner Ken from Merredin to Jandakot for medical treatment at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
Jan has been battling with cancer for the past 24 years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1981.
But unfortunately after going into remission following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the cancer reoccurred five years ago.
Since then, Jan has undergone further chemo and radiation therapy, and has been treated with five different types of chemotherapy, but nothing has worked.
Ken said Jan was in constant pain and the couple had to make regular four-hour road trips to Perth.
"Now we have to make weekly trips to the palliative care unit at Sir Charles Gairdner for treatment and pain relief," he said.
These trips had become extremely tiring and stressful.
"I have been doing my best to look after Jan as well as continue running our farm and house moving business," he said.
"But the constant need to travel to and from Perth is starting to get on top of me."
But then Ken heard about Angel Flight and was relieved to find that Jan and himself could be flown free of charge from Merredin to Jandakot and home again because of the generosity of pilots like Greg.
Coincidentally, Greg, who has a farm located between Bruce Rock and Narembeen, has experienced a similar situation in his own life.
"My first wife also had breast cancer and we used to travel by car from Bruce Rock to Perth quite regularly," Ken said.
"I know what it's like being faced with a severe medical condition while living in the bush.
"The condition is stressful enough on its own without having to make regular three or four hour trips to Perth for treatment."
Greg completed his first Angel Flight mission on October 1 after making a new year's resolution at the start of this year to become more involved in the community.
"First of all I initiated the setting up of the Partner and Friends Cancer Support Service through the Cancer Council of WA and then I registered with Angel Flight," he said.
Greg said there have been an amazing series of coincidences coming together following his decision to join Angel Flight.
"I think it's amazing that my first mission is to help people who are in a similar situation to what faced me a few years ago," he said.
"In addition, my wife, Glenis, organised a fundraiser for Angel Flight at the school in Bruce Rock where she is a teacher and it was on the day that they raised $400 that I received my first Angel Flight mission."
About 800 pilots are registered with Angel Flight nationally and donate their skill and aircraft operating expenses to help country people needing non-emergency medical or humanitarian aid overcome the tyranny of distance.
While air operations are free, there is still an important ground operation to pay for.
Greg said part funding for this comes from Angel Flight's foundation sponsor Demazin.
But it still needs to raise further sponsorship and donation dollars to fund mission coordination and the handling of flight inquiries.
Angel Flight is a not for profit charity and is recognised by the Australian Taxation Office as a deductible gift recipient.
All donations $2 and over are tax deductible.
For further details about Angel Flight phone Greg on 0429 463 851, head office on (07) 3852 3300 or visit their website at www.angelflight.org.au