While most of Alice is grumbling about the decline of the tourism industry, a new wing worth more than $3m of the Flying Doctor base is nearing completion.
It includes a mini department store, with a life-size replica of the service's Pilatus PC12 workhorse (you can sit in the pilot's seat), and a 70 seat theater fitted with all that opens and shuts for watching movies to video, audio and data links for remote conferencing.
Manager Michael Toomey says the store will be an upgrade of the souvenir shop and benefit from "co-branding" with R M Williams.
The theatre will be where visitors watch the movie about the legendary service founded by Reverend John Flynn in 1928 with a De Havilland DH50 aircraft leased from Qantas for which he paid two shillings per mile flown.
Today the service has 61 aircraft around Australia and employs 900 people.
Alice has a staff of 20 (in the aviation side) plus 10 (in the tourism side), and four PC12s worth $6.5m each when new.
The Swiss-built turbine powered planes are well suited for dirt strips and are powerful enough to take off from relatively short runways.
Although the "flying doctor" label is only half true these days – the doctors and the tasking comes from the NT Department of Health – the organisation continues to make the most of its glorious history, while expanding its services to the local community. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. PICTURE: Mr Toomey at the entrance to the new building which takes its inspiration from an aircraft wing and struts. The semi-circular entrance hints at the shape of a hangar.