Johnathan Miller, former Peace Corps director to Botswana, founded Airborne Lifeline Foundation in 2005 to provide a regularly scheduled flying medical service in Botswana. Airborne signed a memorandum of understanding with the Botswana Ministry of Health in August 2006.
The service began operating in May 2007, transporting specialist doctors and other health care professionals from the capital city Gaborone to regional clinics around the country. Roundtrip flights from Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city, were added in 2008.
Airborne qualified for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding in April 2008.
The service transports medical supplies, including HIV/AIDS testing supplies and anti-retroviral drugs, out to the clinics and tissue samples back to Gaborone and Francistown for analysis.
Because Botswana has a good infrastructure of airstrips near clinics in remote areas of the country, Airborne chose Botswana for its first program. Nurses and technicians are available at the clinics, but doctors and other health care professionals, based at hospitals in Gaborone and Francistown, are in short supply. Although the infrastructure of roads is good, travel from the two cities requires a day one way by road. Travel by air requires a few hours, allowing the health care professionals to put in a full day at a regional clinic and to return to their base hospitals by that evening.
Airborne provides scheduled flights from Gaborone and Francistown to Tsabong, Hukuntzi, Ghanzi, Gumare, Maun, and Kasane. The Botswana Ministry of Health assigns the health care professionals and organizes the medical cargo for the flights.