Ted rediscovers the joy of flight
BALLINA retiree Ted Sly has rediscovered the joy of flight, 67 years after he last stepped out of a cockpit.
His trusty steed all those years ago was nothing less than a World War II Spitfire with the RAAF.
At the time the veteran of four campaigns never wanted to see inside an airplane again. But the passing of years has softened those strong feelings.
Now, at the age of 90, he is on the cusp of regaining his pilot's licence - only the complicated theory test stands in his way.
“When I learnt to fly we took so many risks,” he recalled. “We lost at least one during each training course I was on. Today the system of air safety is so different.”
Now that the former farmer from Gunnedah is able to experience the joys of piloting his own aircraft he can see the real need for a proper recreational aviation centre right here on the Northern Rivers.
“This district has more recreational aircraft than almost any other in Australia,” he said.
“But most of our airstrips are single runways, with no cross-strip to handle crosswinds.
“Many times I've had to fly over Ballina and go to Brisbane because of strong south-easterly winds on the ground.”
Mr Sly said the logical choice of airfield for such a venture was Evans Head, with its four runways still usable for the majority of recreational aircraft.
But he said pressure from other pursuits - a proposed retirement home and potential for more housing - could disrupt what should be a valuable aviation asset in years to come.
“If the retirement village goes ahead the oldies will complain of noise, and then the authorities will close the aerodrome and carve it up for housing,” he predicted.
“By making everyone happy we will run the real risk of seeing a terrific aviation opportunity go missing.”