Broken Hillite Lawrence ‘Lawrie’ Hutton has been flying planes for nearly 30 years, but he said it was more chance than anything that got him started.
He first stepped foot into the cockpit in 1962, but a broken leg on a skiing trip quickly put that idea to rest.
It wasn’t until more than 20 years later that Lawrie returned to the pilot’s seat, but now you can’t get him out of the air.
“I didn’t get back into it until 1988, when my daughter said ‘you’ve been talking about this for so long, why don’t we do it?’,” Lawrie said.
“So we did, my daughter and I both learned to fly together, although I’ve done a lot more flying since then than she has,” he said.
Flying was something of a family activity, with Lawrie and his wife Joan also flying together until she sadly passed in November last year.
He has flown a number of long distance trips, including trips to Darwin and back, and trips to Cape York and back, as well as shorter trips to places like Kangaroo Island, Birdsville, and Roma.
He first learnt to fly in a Cessna plane, a model he’s stuck with throughout the years.
“I bought a Cessna 172F at the beginning of this year – high wings are more convenient, it’s too hard to climb into and load luggage into a low wing,” he said.
He said it’s hard to put into words exactly why he loves flying.
“It’s just being in the air I think, it’s one of those things,” Lawrie said.
His Cessna was bought with a very special purpose in mind – a solo flight around Australia.
In late 2013 the local Aero Club celebrated its 75th anniversary, and Lawrie said he noticed a lot of older pilots had stopped flying.
“I came to the conclusion that I would like to encourage older onetime pilots to get back to flying, older non pilots to relight their dreams to fly, and those who have never had those dreams to start dreaming and get into the air,” Lawrie said.
“It’s taken a long while to get to where it is, but I’m off now,” he said.
“The aim is to visit the extreme compass points of mainland Australia; it’s 70 hours of straight flying, 13,000km.”
Lawrie took off from Broken Hill last Friday, and has flown south to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, and is making his way east to Cape Byron in NSW, then up north to Cape York, turning west for Steep Point in WA, before returning to Broken Hill.
“Its 21 days of flying, with possible delays due to weather, and added time to let me have rest days, see the sites,” Mr Hutton said.
“Weather is always a little bit of a challenge, and I’ve got to be able to get fuel along the way,” he said.
“The plane has a range of five hours flying maximum, which is just under 900kms, and I want to make sure I have fuel in reserve during each leg I take.”
He said he was inspired by other octo- and nonagenarians who have completed trips of their own, not necessarily in planes.
He mentioned a retired 93-year-old who completed an around-Australia flight in a Brumby light aircraft a few years ago, and sailor Syd Fischer, who at 88 years of age has completed nearly 50 Sydney to Hobart yacht races, most recently in 2014.
Lawrie said he’s been blown away by the support he’s received for his trip.
“I greatly appreciate the support I’ve had from members of the Aero Club, my family and my church, they’ve all been most supportive and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the response I’ve had.”
After several years of planning, financing, knee replacements, bereavements, medical checks and more, Lawrie has finally set off, and is expecting to return to the Silver City in less than a month’s time, with another 13,000km under his belt.