He reached for the sky: Dick Smith leads tributes to Max Hazelton

MAX Hazelton is an endangered species - a true blue Aussie who’s made money and ran a successful business in the tough aviation industry, according to entrepreneur Dick Smith.

Mr Smith flew into Orange in his helicopter on Saturday to launch Denis Gregory’s book chronicling the Hazelton legacy at the aero centre bearing the aviation legend’s name.

The launch began fittingly with Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines as friends and admirers of Mr Hazelton took to the lectern to praise the aviation pioneer.

Mr Hazelton was typified as a survivor.

Not just from his famed crash near Oberon in 1954 where against the odds he trekked for six days out of rugged bushland to Cox’s River and later managed to recover his plane.

But also for building a successful and profitable business in the aviation industry.

Mr Smith said Mr Hazelton was one of few people who could fly well and had the business acumen to match.

“He did things that other people put in the hard basket ... he stood up for his beliefs and bucked authority when he thought it wasn’t right"

He said he had recently flown over the site of Mr Hazelton’s 1954 crash and planned to take him back in a 4WD.

Mr Smith thanked Mr Hazelton for being one of few in the industry to support his reforms while he was the chair of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

“We were able to change the rules so instead of Australia re-certifying aircraft [from overseas] we managed to pick seven leading aviation countries and we were able to accept their aircraft without modifications,” Mr Smith said.

“We’ve saved many, many lives because people have been able to fly in aviation from country towns compared to going by road which is far less safe.”

The Hazelton Story author Denis Gregory compared Mr Hazelton to the early explorers - charting the way for others to follow.

“He did things that other people put in the hard basket,” he said.

“He stood up for his beliefs and bucked authority when he thought it wasn’t right.

“For me it wasn’t a matter of what to put in the book ... it was a matter of what to leave out, that was the hard part.”


Among Mr Hazelton’s many legacies he was credited with convincing authorities to lift the ban on night flying to allow crop spraying in calmer conditions.

A story of a plane’s failed-landing gear being lassoed by two speeding cars on an airstrip exemplified his daring attitude.

Mr Hazelton said he was excited about the book’s launch.

He thanked all involved and congratulated the airline’s former employees for their achievements including pilots Ben Hazelton, Jonathan Hazelton and Andrew Flanagan who had “began their career as hangar rats” and were now pilots for Cathay Pacific, Virgin and Qantas.

“Virgin Airlines employs 50 ex-Hazelton pilots,” he said.

“It’s also a pleasure to see the flying continue with my son Toby, and now my granddaughter Georgie who has commenced her private pilot licence and grandson Lachie who is also about to start flying training at Orange Airport.”

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