Doug Harrison has seen a lot in his life, especially changes to technology in aviation and grazing in the far west.
The sprightly 90-year-old, who lives on Langwell station, 60 kilometres south of Broken Hill, has lived in the far west of New South Wales all his life and loves flying his plane and working on the family property.
In his time on the land, Mr Harrison has lived through several droughts and believed flying kept him healthy.
“Learning to fly was the best thing I ever did in my life,” Mr Harrison said.
“I learnt to fly in 1952 in Broken Hill, flying Tiger Moths every weekend — I worked commercially for a long time, it was very different back then, we didn’t have good radio contact or the type of navigational equipment they do now.
“All we had in those days was a compass to make sure we were going in the right direction.”
Mr Harrison said he still enjoyed getting out and helping his sons during the week.
He believed that kept him healthy in the body and the mind and couldn’t imagine sitting down and not involved while they had all the fun.
“I’d go stupid if I couldn’t fly and help the boys,” Mr Harrison said.
“I can still pull it out of the hangar at my age and get in and fly around no worries.
“As you get older, you can’t stop doing what you enjoy just because you are aging, it’s important to keep up the things you love for your state of mind, especially in times like these where it’s pretty dry and depressing.”
Clinical aged care consultant Liz Perrie agreed with the 90-year-old fly boy.
She believed staying active in retirement was vital for mental and physical health.
“It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a very active person during your younger years,” Ms Perrie said.
“Doing something you enjoy, plus keeping your mind active by playing mind games and being social, is important for your mental health as you age.
“The most important thing is to just do something active so your balance, bone health and muscular system stay strong.”
Mr Harrison, who flies solo, said the number of trips he did had decreased in recent times.
His son Mitch Harrison, who handles most of the stock work on the property, said that when his father did get up in the air to help out, it made all the difference.
“I can’t go without him in the plane sometimes,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’d be able to do some days without when I’m on the motor bike, trying to spot sheep when it’s dusty and windy out here.
“It’s a pretty good innings to get to 90 and to still be up there helping us out and pulling out the plane on his own doing what he loves, it’s pretty inspirational stuff.”
Throughout his time on the land, Mr Harrison had seen several severe droughts.
The drought currently devastating NSW had not dampened his spirits, however.
“When you get up in the plane, you can see a lot more than on the ground obviously, so you really get a sense for just how dry it is,” he said.
“I still love the flying side of it, but it does get to you when you’re up there.
“But it’s going to rain, and when it does, I probably won’t be able to pull my plane out and get up in the sky and have a look, because we generally get flooded in.”
Mitch Harrison said he could not pick when his father would slow down and could not imagine him not flying.
“He just loves it too much, and we would all love to be able to get up with him,” he said.
“It makes us really happy to be able to see him do what he loves.”