Fol­low­ing fly­ing dream

LifeStyle Wimmera - - INSIDE - By Dean Law­son

If man was never meant to fly then who­ever was re­spon­si­ble for the say­ing for­got to tell Hor­sham’s De­nis Grosser. Fly­ing has be­come a pas­sion and part of life for the 80-year-old for­mer busi­ness­man and farmer who en­joys noth­ing more than set­ting off on an ad­ven­ture to farflung parts of the coun­try.

Friends, rel­a­tives or ac­quain­tances of­ten join him on trips to des­ti­na­tions such as the Birdsville Races or Lake Eyre.

On oc­ca­sions, since 2007 and as part of the char­ity An­gel Flight Aus­tralia, his pas­sen­gers have been re­mote coun­try peo­ple need­ing non-emer­gency ac­cess to spe­cial­ist med­i­cal treat­ment.

Many in the Wim­mera-mallee and be­yond would know of De­nis and his son Kym through suc­cess­ful busi­ness Ir­win Mo­tors, now Trac­tion Ag, and con­nec­tions in the north-west Wim­mera.

But few might be aware of how much pas­sion De­nis has for ven­tur­ing into the sky to what he de­scribes as ‘a dif­fer­ent world’.

“It’s the same world but it is com­pletely dif­fer­ent – you get an en­tirely dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive from up in the air,” he said.

“It’s the free­dom and the won­der of it all.”

De­nis re­vealed he had de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in air­craft when he was a tod­dler on his fam­ily farm at Cus­ton near Wolse­ley, South Aus­tralia.

He said he would mar­vel at the air­craft fly­ing from Nhill train­ing air base dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

“You could see them go through their paces from our place, which was about 40 nau­ti­cal miles away. It in­trigued me. I al­ways wanted to fly,” he said.

Yet it was many years later when he was 52, an age when some might con­sider a life­time dream lit­tle more than a fan­tasy, that he seized the op­por­tu­nity.

“When Na­tional Ser­vice was the norm in the early 1950s I tried to en­list in the RAAF, but my mother would not sign the form. She said it was too dan­ger­ous,” he said.

“Over the years I talked about how I wanted to learn to fly many times but it kept get­ting put off by the every­day pres­sures of rais­ing a fam­ily, pay­ing off the home and so on.

“Talk­ing to Kym one day while he was still in the RAAF, he told me about his in­tended fa­ther-in-law John Col­bert, who at 50 had just grad­u­ated as a pri­mary school teacher.

“I was ad­mir­ing his ef­forts and dur­ing the course of dis­cus­sion some­thing came up about me learn­ing to fly. Kym looked at me and said ‘dad, I’ve heard you say that too many times – your phi­los­o­phy is do it now, do it now, do it now’. So I did.”

Af­ter sell­ing the farm, De­nis shifted to Gipp­s­land to man­age a Moe Co-op farm store. He ended up with agribusi­ness New Hol­land and moved back to Hor­sham.

Af­ter 14 years he was chief ex­ec­u­tive at Sun­ny­side Lutheran Rest Home and ul­ti­mately took on Ir­win Mo­tors.

“When I worked for New Hol­land we would have an­nual per­for­mance re­views,” he said.

“The boss would sit us down and ask us our goals, and they al­ways wanted to hear about how we would sell more prod­ucts.

“My goals were that I wanted to own a Mercedes diesel car, learn to fly and have con­stant ac­cess to an aero­plane.

“His re­sponse was ‘what on earth has that got to do with the busi­ness’ and I said I would have to work by butt off to achieve my goals. He took the re­sponse to the rest of the group and said ‘De­nis has the be­stand-fairest award’.

“In­ci­den­tally, I achieved all those goals and more. In fact Sir Bruce Small from Malvern Star bi­cy­cle fame said his main life­time re­gret was never think­ing big enough.

“While I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, I be­lieve the same thing.”

De­nis now climbs into a four-seater Piper Ar­row air­craft and has flown to ev­ery state ex­cept Western Aus­tralia.

De­spite De­nis’s love of fly­ing and fly­ing now be­ing such a big part of his life, he has never been able to con­vince his wife Cyn­thia to share his pas­sion.

“I’ve man­aged to get her into the air­craft twice,” he said. “Once when I was go­ing to Bris­bane and I had to taxi the plane for about 100 yards to the bowser to fill up.

Her re­sponse was ‘that’s enough!’

“The only other time was to help check the brake ped­als in the han­gar and I didn’t even get the plant out of the shed.”

De­nis, who has now clocked up more than 1700 hours of fly­ing, keeps fit by play­ing com­pet­i­tive ta­ble ten­nis and since re­tire­ment has a side in­ter­est run­ning a small farm at Drung.

“I was born 80 years ago but re­ally only feel 67,” he said.

De­nis Grosser at the con­trols of the four-seater air­craft he en­joys fly­ing to re­mote parts of Aus­tralia. Pic­ture: DEAN LAW­SON

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