Gunnedah's Mike Barnier has provided 73 free flights to country people as a part of Angel Flight

PASSION FOR FLYING: Mike Barnier with his plane at the Gunnedah Airport. He has used this same plane in all 73 of his missions with Angel Flight since 2003.
PASSION FOR FLYING: Mike Barnier with his plane at the Gunnedah Airport. He has used this same plane in all 73 of his missions with Angel Flight since 2003.

For Mike Barnier flying and aviation has been a passion since the age of 12.

So has helping people.

In 2003, Mr Barnier heard about Angel Flight, a service that offers free flights to country people to help them get to medical facilities and appointments in metropolitan areas.

Since then, the Gunnedah man has completed 73 volunteer missions and helped countless country families make much needed medical appointments.

Angel Flight CEO Marjorie Pagani said the service could not operate without the help of volunteers like Mr Barnier.

“Without out volunteers we wouldn’t be able to run this service,” Ms Pagani said.

“Mike is one of the few pilots who has been with us since the beginning of Angel Flight and it’s because of people like him that we are still running today.”

As for the man himself, Mr Barnier is extremely humble about the contribution he makes to Angel Flight. 

“What I do is really only a small part of the service,” he said.

“Part of the service is the people that meet the families on the ground, their called Earth Angels and they really are the unsung heroes of the service.”

Mr Barnier reflected on the mixture of emotions being an pilot for Angel Flight brings.

“You do see some things particularly with young children that can tear your heart out,” he said.

“However you do keep in touch with people who have beaten cancer at a young age, have grown up to have a family and for me that is a good news story.”

Mr Barnier said the service could not function without the leadership that comes from the service’s headquarters in Brisbane.

“They do an amazing job,” he said.

“They co-ordinate everything for everybody involved and make the process as easy as possible for the families.”

Mr Barnier earlier this year was honoured with the Citizien of the Year award as a part of the Australia Day awards.

However, the local said Angel Flight was not about awards or accolades but about helping country people.

“Those types of awards are always nice,” he said.

“To be honest though it was rather embarrassing because I do this for fun and not for the recognition.

“It really is a passion to me and there aern’t to many passions in life where you can help people while doing something you love to do.” 

Mr Barnier also said he had no plans of retiring from Angel Flight anytime soon.

“I suppose I’ll give it up when they take my license off me, but until then I’m not packing it in.”