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Founded for a cause. Not a profit.

Mercy Flights was founded in 1949 by George Milligan, an air traffic controller in Medford, after a friend of his died of polio in Southern Oregon, unable to survive the long, slow ground transport to Portland.

Through fundraising efforts by schoolchildren, scouts, and others in the community, George  raised enough money to buy the first aircraft, a twin-engine Cessna, which was known as the bamboo bomber.  A “membership” program was established which provided people in the community an opportunity to contribute to Mercy Flights, while insuring that they would be financially covered in the event that they needed aero medical transportation

As demand grew, Mercy Flights responded by adding additional aircraft and personnel to provide medical transportation as needed.  To date, Mercy Flights has flown over 20,000 patients, and continues to provide this vital service to Southern Oregon.

In 1992, Mercy Flights purchased Medford Ambulance Service, expanding operations to ground transportation. This acquisition combined the strengths of these two vital community service organizations. The decision to expand followed discussions with both Rogue Valley Medical Center and Providence Hospital, which supported building a regional medical transportation network. In 1993, Mercy Flights acquired Rogue Ambulance, expanding its service to the communities of White City, Eagle Point, and Shady Cove.

In the past, the outlying communities of Prospect and Butte Falls were served by all-volunteer ambulance services, which faced financial challenges in operating ambulances in the 90s.  Through a cooperative effort, now these First Responders and EMTs continue to serve their communities as a valuable part of Mercy Flights.  These communities benefit from the assurance of consistent, professional EMS services and a stronger economic base. The EMTs benefit through increased training, improved equipment, and some financial compensation for the crucial role they play.

As Mercy Flights has expanded over the years, the membership program has grown, too. Today we serve over 18,000 households, several of whom have been members since Mercy Flights’ inception.

In 1995, Mercy Flights and Timberland entered a joint effort to provide an emergency helicopter service available to all citizens and agencies within a 150‑mile radius of Medford, further expanding the type of medical transportation provided.  This added resource allows rapid transport for critical patients, as well as improved access to remote areas.

Mercy Flights has also committed to reaching out to young people in the communities we serve.  As part of that effort, through Exploring for Life organization, we sponsor an EMS specific post, Explorer Post 131.  Through this program, young people between the ages of 16 and 21 receive training and experience in EMS and are able to “explore” this as a career option.  The young explorers are medically trained and are used at large public events, scouting events, and disaster relief efforts such as the flooding problems experienced by Jackson County in January 1997. Explorer Post 131 has provided medical services at National Boy Scouts Jamborees.


August 24th: Mercy Flight's Founded by George Milligan and donations from the community. The Nation's first nonprofit air ambulance service.


Purchased First Plane “Rogue’s Wings O’ Mercy” for $3,000.


New headquarters built at Medford airport.


Mercy Flights offers membership subscription program for $2 per year.


Volunteers from the Community built Mercy Flights first Hangar (for Hot Coffee & Doughnuts).


Planes are now manufactured with doors large enough to load stretchers. For the first 18 years, Mercy Flights had to retrofit planes to accommodate patients.


Mercy Flights founder, George Milligan, elected Oregon’s pilot of the year .


Iron Annie retires and is displayed in the Museum of Flight in Boeing airfield after 21 years of service.


Mercy Flights purchases Medford Ambulance.


Mercy Flights begins offering helicopter EMS service.


Mercy Flights receives 3.7 million dollar Oregon Connect III Grant to build new hangars and operation facilities.


Mercy Flights first brand new helicopter licensed under 135 certificate – 119MF.


Mercy Flights introduced the Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) Program. The focus of this program was to identify barriers patients experience and to help them find and access services to address these barriers.


Mercy Flights first brand new plane – 121MF.


Mercy Flights continues to provide exceptional out-of-hospital care and transport to Southern Oregon and Northern California communities and responds to over 27,000 requests for service annually.

Awards & Recognitions

EMS Commitment to Quality Award

Mercy Flights Explorer Post 131

1994 EMS Commitment to Quality Award

Oregon Health Authority

1999 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2001 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2001 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2002 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2003 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2003 Outstanding Teamwork Award

Josephine County EMS Board

2003 Outstanding Teamwork Award

Josephine County EMS Board

2006 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2015 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2016 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2016 Jackson Care Connect

Innovation and Improvement Award

2016 Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award

Medford Chamber

2017 EMS Unit Citation

Oregon Health Authority

2017 EMS Commitment to Quality Award

Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program

2017 Department of Defense ESGR

Pro Patria Award

2017 Department of Defense ESGR

Above and Beyond Award

2020 Department of Defense

ESGR – Above and Beyond Award

2021 Department of Defense ESGR

Statement of Support