Former Air Force pilot takes to the skies again
FORMER Air Force pilot Kevin Sharpley has taken to the skies once again - 22 years after going into retirement.
Mr Sharpley, who lives near Stokers Siding, said the light aircraft Tecnam he flies through Murwilluumbah-based Scenic Rim Aviation is far-flung from the ones he was trained in.
"Some people - when they get older - they sit back and do nothing," Mr Sharpley said.
"It's keeping me interested in life."
Mr Sharpley said his wife wouldn't go flying with him, refusing to get in a plane unless it's absolutely necessary.
He's lived in the Tweed for about a decade - originally from Victoria.
Mr Sharpley did his national service from 1956 as a radio serviceman in Ballarat, Victoria.
In January 1958, he joined the Air Force, where he remained for 14 years.
"It was exceptionally interesting," Mr Sharpley said.
Mr Sharpley was trained in the pistol-engine Winjeel planes, along with the jet-engine Vampires - the latter of which could reach an air speed of 900kmh. (more than four times that of his Tecnam)
He then set out to join the 11 squadron, where he flew a Neptune - a maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
His roles included search and rescue missions in conjunction with the navy, as well as searching for submarines.
After several weeks' training, Mr Sharpley then spent four years flying Iroquois helicopters.
He said this involved medical evacuations during the Battle of Long Tan in August 1966.
"We worked with the Australian Army in South Vietnam," he said.
"It was very challenging."
Mr Sharpley said he learnt to live life to the fullest during his time with the Air Force.
"I learnt to live life to the fullest, and to appreciate life."
"After you've had some internal experience in the armed forces, you realise how well off we are today," Mr Sharpley said.
"Some people's complaints seem very trivial."
Mr Sharpley later went back to fixed wings, flying Caribou planes in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
He left the Air Force as a squadron leader.
He then went on to pursue a career as a pilot examiner - for everything from an F-22 to a Boeing 707 - with the
Department of Civil Aviation.
Originally from Victoria, Mr Sharpley worked in a bank before entering the armed forces - and it doesn't sound like he misses the office life.
"Moving from the bank to the Air Force was the best thing I ever did," he said.