FLYING in a historic war plane was the perfect way for ex-Royal Australian Air Force pilot John Grant to soar into his 80s.
Mr Grant flew up from Sydney to Ballina earlier this week for an early 80th birthday present to fly the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) CA-25 Winjeel gifted by his wife, two sons and daughter.
John was one of the first pilots to fly the Winjeel when he worked for RAAF between 1956 and 1969.
His son Paul said it was a thrill for his dad to be in the war bird after half a century.
"We love him to bits, he's a rare breed, one of the nicest people I've ever known," Paul said.
Flying the old aircraft through Classic Areo Adventure Flights was described as "a joy" for John.
"I guess its been my life. I've spent 53 and a half years flying for a living," he said.
After his time with RAAF, John was a Qantas pilot until retirement.
Paul, who is also a Qantas pilot, said they were "a bit of a flying family".
His older sister is a former flight attendant and his younger brother a Qantas pilot.
Unlike her children and husband, Jennifer was described by Paul as a "white knuckle flyer" with a fear of flying.