Narrative History

of the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service

The Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service was founded in 1934 by Clyde Fenton, a qualified medical doctor who had tought himself to fly. Like the Reverend John Flynn, he could see the potential for providing medical services in the Australia Outback by aeroplane. Unfortunately, Flynn had a policy of not employing doctors as pilots. Undeterred, Fenton raised the money for an aircraft privately and in March 1934 took up the position of Government Medical Officer in Katherine. Here he started an air ambulance service which later grew into the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service.

Flying his own aircraft, Fenton used primitive airstrips and runways to collect patients and take them back to Katherine for treatment. With no navigational or night flying aids, Fenton was involved in several crashes. The first replacement aircraft was paid for by a government loan, and a second by public donations of the people of Darwin. In late 1937 a new larger aircraft that could carry a stretcher case was provided by the Northern Territory Government.

In May 1940 Fenton was called up for RAAF service. As a consequence, the whole NTAMS organisation was moved from Katherine to Darwin. By now the service had recruited other pilots, doctors, nurses and mechanics. In 1943 the Department of Health of the Northern Territory Government took over the running of the service. Sometime later, the service appears to have been suspended, while aircraft and resources were devoted to the war effort.

In 1945 Jack Slade, a pilot who had served with Fenton in the RAAF, restarted the post-war NTAMS. Flying ex-RAAF DH.84 Dragon aircraft the service resumed operations. NTAMS mostly provided services in the ‘Top End’ northern part of the Northern Territory, while the expanding Royal Flying Doctor Service covered the southern part of the state.

In the 1950s more modern aircraft were obtained and the service became more efficient and professional. In 2004 Pearl Aviation was awarded a ten-year contract to operate four Beechcraft Super King Airs configured as air ambulances for the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service. Before the ten years had elapsed, the Government appears to have decided to outsource the whole service to a contractor. On 1 July 2010, the New South Wales-based aeromedical charity CareFlight took over the operation on an interim basis. From this date the service was no longer referred to as the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service. Careflight’s contract was renewed the following year for a full ten years.

Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

NTAMS History

Key Dates

1934 Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service (NTAMS) launched.
1937 Northern Territory Government purchases an aircraft for the service.
May 1940 NTAMS base moved to Darwin.
1943 Northern Territory Government takes over operation of NTAMS.
1 July 2010 NTAMS service outsourced to CareFlight.

Current Status

The service was closed down in 2010 and outsourced to Careflight.

Future Plans

Not applicable.


Markings

Special Markings

Early aircraft of the NTAMS were typically silver overall with a red Maltese Cross insignia on the fuselage sides or fin/rudder. Some aircraft had the cross marking on the wings as well. More recently, aircraft were white overall with a complex dark blue/white/red/light blue fuselage cheatline that widened to cover the rear fuselage, fin and rudder. NORTHERN TERRITORY AERIAL MEDICAL SERVICE titles were carried on the upper fuselage.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

NTAMS aircraft carry civil registrations.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.


Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

No false reports known.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

Several aircraft were lost or damaged in accidents.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

NTAMS, Darwin, Northern Territory.

Organisational Structure

Not known.

Current Unit Assignments

Not applicable.

Historical Unit Assignments

To be added.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

Not applicable.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

The following air bases were used: Darwin, Gove, Katherine, Alice Springs.

More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added

Websites

NTG Department of Health – Aerial Medical Services
wikipedia: Clyde Fenton
Jetphotos.net

Any photographs illustrating this operator would be welcome.

 

All-Time Aircraft Used List
Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Beech Super King Air 200 4 1996 ? USA
Beech Super King Air 200C 4 ? 2010 USA
Cessna 402C 1 1977 1977 USA
de Havilland D.H.60G Gipsy Moth 2 1934 ? ex-civil
de Havilland D.H.83 Fox Moth 1 1936 1941 UK
de Havilland D.H.84 Dragon 3 1946 1954 RAAF
de Havilland D.H.104 Dove 6 1955 1977 UK
De Havilland Australia DHA-3 Drover 3 1952 1961 Australia
De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 2 1974 1977 contractor
GAF N22 Nomad 6 1977 1996 leased
Miles Gemini 1 1948 1952 UK