Famous Nomad aircraft from The Flying Doctors the best reason to visit Broken Hill, New South Wales

The show was watched by millions around the world.
The show was watched by millions around the world. Photo credit: Commons

Chances are, you've clicked on this story because the image of this iconic aircraft brought back a planeload of memories from your childhood of evenings in front of the TV watching The Flying Doctors.

While Rebecca Gibney played the key role of Emma and Dame Pat Evison played viewer favourite Violet, it was the Nomad aircraft that was the real star of the show.

Mike Sierra Foxtrot was its call sign, likely a nod to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), an international medical organisation.

The show was set in the fictional Outback town of Coopers Crossing in Australia, not far from the real world city of Broken Hill. It was here in the show that a team of medical doctors and nurses flew to the most remote of places to care for both long-term patients and for people whose lives were immediately at risk.

Royal Flying Doctor Service plane, Nomad 228on station airstrip Ivanhoe, New South Wales, Australia. (Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty.

Those lifesaving episodes were the most exciting. The medical team and their Nomad MSF were put to the test - with short paddocks to land in, would the plane stop before running into a valley? With massive hailstones slamming into the aircraft, would it crash? The action that took place in the cockpit of the Nomad had people on the edge of their seats.

As well as being a ratings hit in Australia, it was also one of the most watched shows in New Zealand television. It also had a massive following in the UK with a loyal audience of 8 million people tuning in every week.

After nine seasons and a mini-series, The Flying Doctors came to an end, and the Nomad VH-MSF landed for the last time.

The cast made an easy transition to new film and television work, with Gibney and co-star Robert Grubb still familiar faces on our screens some 30 years later.

But that wasn't the case for the Nomad.

A replica of the aircraft from the TV show sat abandoned and in a state of disrepair at a South Australian museum for a number of years.

The actual flying aircraft used in the show now sits at the very front of the Broken Hill Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) base after a long period of restoration.

John Larkin of the RFDS took it upon himself to save the historic Australian television icon.

"The show was based around the Nomad, it's an historic part of the Flying Doctor's aviation history," Larkin told Newshub.

Restoring the TV icon.
Restoring the TV icon. Photo credit: Broken Hill Royal Flying Doctor Service

"The restoration involved disassembling and rebuilding the aircraft. The tail section was damaged from years of wind exposure, and it had to be reinforced. 

"The body was sandblasted, and significant airframe repairs took place to strengthen the plane."

The aircraft was then repainted in the original livery as seen on television.

"We call it the Gatekeeper Nomad, because everyone who is entering the airport and the base travels past it and can experience the nostalgia it invokes," Larkin said.

Nomad aircraft were designed and produced by the Australian government in the 1960s and were mainly used by the military there and in Indonesia. Their main selling point was their ability to take off and land in a very short distance.

Back on display.
Back on display. Photo credit: Broken Hill Royal Flying Doctor Service

A couple of Nomads were put into service in New Zealand, operated by Great Barrier Airlines and Air Safaris.

If your feelings of nostalgia are strong enough to make you want to see the aircraft for yourself, the RFDS in Broken Hill is six hours drive from Adelaide, or 12 hours from Sydney.

Regional airline REX operates flights to Broken Hill from Adelaide and Sydney.