Aeromedical charity Little Wings has launched its fourth aircraft at Sydney’s Bankstown Airport.
The five-seater Beechcraft Baron 58, registered VH-WQE, was enabled by a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Government, and will bolster Little Wings’ capacity to support sick children. Aeria Management Group, owner of Bankstown Airport, will sponsor the plane’s fuel for the next year.
Little Wings, which provides free flights and ground transport for seriously ill children around NSW, the ACT, and Queensland, operates exclusively Beechcraft Barons, which Little Wings CEO Clare Pearson says were chosen for their reliability, dubbing them the “Toyota of the skies”.
“Little Wings has been operating with three planes for a number of years, and at the end of last year, 2022, we found ourselves reaching capacity, and we were really concerned we were going to have to say no,” she told Australian Aviation.
“So, after a lot of work, and a lot of talks and a lot of stalking, to put it bluntly, we were able to secure a grant for $1.8 million through the Commonwealth, and specifically the health minister, Mark Butler, to purchase our fourth aircraft, to allow us to continue supporting families, and in fact, another 800 families will be supported by this little plane.”
In a statement, Minister Butler dubbed Little Wings a “beacon of hope” for families “facing the unimaginable”.
“The introduction of this new aircraft at Bankstown bolsters the invaluable service that Little Wings provides,” he said.
“The extension of support for Little Wings reflects our government’s commitment to strengthening the health infrastructure that binds our nation together.
“Little Wings helps to ensure no child’s health is compromised by distance or location.”
Emma McBride, Minister for Regional Health, told Australian Aviation that aeromedical services like Little Wings are a vital part of the health network in regional areas.
“I think it’s absolutely critical, particularly for young people and their families who live outside of our capital cities to be able to get that really important support and care, and to be able to increase to a fourth plane will make such a big difference in building its capacity,” she said.
“Little Wings is now in its 10th year and has received strong support from government, and I would expect that medical retrieval services like Little Wings would continue in the future to get support from government because it provides such essential care, especially to the seven million Australians that live outside of our capital cities, but in particular, to young children and their families when they’re critically ill.”
Little Wings is headquartered at Bankstown Airport, and recently expanded its operations into the passenger terminal. Aeria Management Group’s sponsorship of the plane’s operational costs reinforces the strong ties between the charity and the airport, said Aeria CEO Daniel Jarosch.
“Aside from being a valued tenant and operator here at Bankstown Airport, it is part of the ecosystem,” he told Australian Aviation.
“The volunteers for Little Wings include Bankstown Airport pilots. So it’s all part of the ecosystem at the end of the day. It’s quite a powerful ecosystem, from maintenance to pilots to volunteers here at Bankstown Airport.”
For more on Little Wings and its important work, check out our March podcast with CEO Clare Pearson.