Those magnificent men in their flying machines: pilot Jim Hazelton dies

FLIGHT OF FANCY: Jim Hazelton.

FLIGHT OF FANCY: Jim Hazelton.

ONE of Australia's most colourful modern-day aviators and former Orange pilot Jim Hazelton, who ferried light aeroplanes all around the world, has died.

Mr Hazelton, 82, often didn’t know from one week to the next which country he'd find himself in because he was so busy doing what he loved.

Long trips across the ocean were like water off the duck’s back for Mr Hazelton , who for years had his aerial spreading company based at Orange Airport after initially establishing it on brother John’s property at Pretty Plains.

Back in September, 1964, he became the first Australian to fly solo across the Pacific in a single-engined aeroplane.

He couldn't get permission from the horrified Australian Civil Aviation authorities for the flight and had to take out an American pilot's licence as well as pass an American course in instrument flying.

 He reckoned he kept pointing out the aeroplane and the engine didn't know it was flying over the water. Only the civil aviation department seemed to know that.

Since then he made the trip more than 60 times without any major incidents.

He ferried a single-engined aeroplane from America in a 65-hour trip across the Pacific for outback cattle queen and author Sara Henderson, of Bulloo River Downs, and flew with Dick Smith on a low-level helicopter flight to Nepal and Katmandu.

 One of his most recent adventures four years ago was flying around the world with co-pilot Jeremy Rowsell in a single-engine Beechcraft  in the record-breaking footsteps of pioneer aviators like Charles Kingsford-Smith.

The leg from the US to Australia was aimed at raising $700,000 to help the Royal Flying Doctor Service South-Eastern Section buy seven flight data recorders for its aircraft.

 Just before that Mr Hazelton was ferrying a World War II Catalina flying boat to Australia and got caught up in a terrorist attack at Mumbai so he and his crew had to flee to the airport amid gunfire to take off without the proper paperwork.

But it was all in a day's work for Mr Hazelton, who in a career spanning 55 years set across-Australia records, won air races and raised the ire of aviation authorities.

He taught famous people to fly like former world champion Formula One drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark, and then sold them aeroplanes.

 With his older brother Max, the former boss of Hazelton Airlines, he flew mercy missions long before the Air Ambulance was established, dumped water on bushfires and dropped supplies to flood-stricken areas of western NSW.

But flying light aeroplanes around the world was something he was always keen on because he reckoned there’d always been a purpose, either taking photographs, making a movie, doing a story or just delivering an aeroplane to where it had to go.

Mr Hazelton is survived by wife Pam and seven children. Daughter Wendy is an Airbus captain based in the Philippines.

 There will be a private family funeral at Kempsey tomorrow and a memorial service at Port Macquarie on June 26.