If it was your 90th birthday this Sunday, how would you celebrate?

If you said ‘fly solo’, then you must be just like Ted Sly. 

Ballina local Ted is flying the skies once again, 67 years after his first solo flight in Rhodesia in the Empire pilot training scheme as member of the RAAF during World War II.

After stepping out of the Spitfire in 1945 to return back to the land, Ted had given up any notion that he could continue flying after the war due to both costs and other commitments.

He admits to always maintaining an interest and desire to take to the skies again.

After his doctor told him that he had the reflexes of a 60-year-old during a medical check-up at age 89, Ted Sly contacted John Gardon, Chief Flying Instructor and owner of Flight North, and also the President of Recreational Aviation Australia to get his flying skills up-to-date. 

Flying several times a week with John, Ted has spent the last threee months working with John to bring his skills up to the level where he could embark on the first of what he intends to become many solo flights.

Undertaking instruction on the ground as well as in the air, and using a Foxbat recreational aircraft, Ted had his first solo flight in more than 65 years just last week.  

This Sunday, look to the skies and give a cheer to Ted, who has booked the Foxbat  to celebrate his 90th birthday with another solo flight.
Ted also took up flying again as a personal challenge and also to draw attention to the plight of local pilots and heritage aficionados in their bid to save the State Heritage Listed Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome on the Far North Coast of NSW from what they say is inappropriate development by local council.

Ted was one of the few to serve in four campaigns in World War II and his autobiography, The Luck of the Draw, tells his story (see www.spitfirebooks.com.au).

On the fight to save the aerodrome, Ted says: “This World War II Aerodrome is a memorial to the RAAF who gave their lives defending freedom in Australia”, said Ted.  “Twenty percent of all those who trained at Evans Head under the Empire Training Scheme were killed during the War”. 

“The best way to remember these individuals is by retaining Evans Head for aviation as a living memorial, not on some plaque stuck away in a dark corner. 

“The former No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School and No 1 Air Observers School is ideally suited to pilot training with four runways to deal with cross-wind conditions. 

“That’s where I’ve done some of my training before going solo. 

“Now I’m in the sky again I can keep an eye on what’s happening at Evans Head.  

“There are at least three groups interested in developing airpark facilities, aviation industry and a World War II aviation museum at Evans Head. Council has ignored them. You have to ask why?”

“You can build a retirement village anywhere but not on an aerodrome. 

“We have a major shortage of pilots and aviation engineers in Australia, in fact world-wide. 

“Evans Head is perfectly situated for training and aviation industry. 

“The Federal Government needs to step in and resume this aerodrome from council.

“Council’s already destroyed the aerodrome at Casino for jet aircraft by selling part of it off to developers. They mustn’t be allowed to do the same at Evans Head.”

PICTURES: Ted Sly with instructor John Gardon, and in Rhodesia 67 years ago.