The saying goes ‘‘It’s never too late’’ and Benalla’s Robert Feldtman proved that correct when he took his first flight at the age of 88.
Born in the 1930s Robert lived through the golden age of plane travel, but never felt the need to take to the skies until last weekend.
And he decided for his first time he didn’t even need an engine, taking off and soaring through the clear blue sky in a glider.
He enjoyed the experience so much that he came back on Wednesday to have a second go.
The gliding club of Victoria said it was great to have someone Robert’s age have a go.
‘‘He went up for nearly 30 minutes in an ASK-21 Glider,’’ a gliding club spokesperson said.
‘‘Since his flight we’ve had an enquiry from a 90-year-old wanting to have a go.
‘‘It’s fantastic for people their age to want to try gliding for the first time.’’
Gliding club pilot Ron Olson took Robert up and said it was most unusual to be able to take a person of his age on a flight and the fact that he had never been in an airplane made it truly an amazing experience.
‘‘He was very excited about the flight and enjoyed it very much,’’ Mr Olson said.
‘‘He was picking out different buildings over the town.
‘‘It was really good and its great that the gliding club can be part of the local community and do these sorts of activities.’’
Robert lives at Estia Health and thought this opportunity might never come about.
‘‘It’s always been on my bucket list,’’ Robert said.
‘‘I thought its time to give it a try and I had a friend who talked me into it.
‘‘I had never been in a plane in all my 88 years. I wasn’t a bit nervous.
‘‘It was very smooth and I saw all around Benalla and a fair bit more.’’
Robert is living with Parkinson’s disease and has trouble with speech, however, when discussing his flight his face lights up and he becomes increasingly articulate.
‘‘We went for half an hour, mainly around the Benalla area. You can recognise all the places around town,’’ he said.
‘‘I got a whole new perspective on things I’ve been looking at for years.
‘‘I chose a glider for my first flight, but that was mainly to do with my friend recommending a glider flight.
‘‘It was very peaceful, you have no engine, it’s like a bird flying around. With no noise it’s so peaceful.
‘‘Luckily we had no air-pockets and we had one big turn, but no acrobatics.
‘‘I have already planned my next flight, but it probably won’t become a regular hobby.’’
Robert said being a farmer his whole life meant he did not have the opportunity to leave Victoria, so he never saw the need to take a flight.
He did offer the advice that if you have never taken a flight to just ‘‘bite the bullet’’ and give it a go.
‘‘I think you just have to do it. Just go and do it. You won’t be sorry,’’ he said.
‘‘You get a parachute strapped onto you, which is a bit of a worry, but better to have one than not.
‘‘I think take off was the highlight for me. The plane pulling us up was amazing.
‘‘Benalla is lucky to have the airport and gliding club.
‘‘If it wasn’t here I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have a go.’’
●If you are interested in taking your first flight, phone the Gliding Club of Victoria on 57621058.
●For more information on the gliding club, visit www.glidingclub.org.au