Dick Smith is going through his seventies.
Famous for flying planes and helicopters, setting records, embarking on scandalous adventures, and supporting causes, Dick always does much the same. When he can.
Busy giving millions of dollars to causes each year, the energetic father of two and grandfather of five has found writing his autobiography among his most demanding jobs.
âIt took me 20 years,â Dick told me from his Sydney office.
âI started it 20 years ago. Then when we had the (pandemic) lockdown my wife (Pip) said ‘you have to finish the book’ so I worked on it for four months.
âI am a radio installer. Fortunately I had two writers to help out every now and then and then the editor’s edition made a good book, luckily.
Dick, along with Pip, love to fly his helicopter in Western Australia. They do it most years.
âFlying a helicopter around WA is fantastic. The Pilbara, Kimberley, beautiful country. We also fly to our farm near Canberra when we can, âhe said.
Their last trip, however, was by 4×4, up Gibb River Road to Halls Creek and to Darwin where their car and camper van are locked up due to pandemic border restrictions.
âThe motorhome has a queen-size bed but I like to put myself in my swag by the fire. We meet a lot of people who seem surprised to see me there and I don’t mind saying hello, no problem at all.
The Smiths have lived in Sydney for 40 years where, according to Dick, house prices have gotten ridiculous.
âAll generations should be better off than previous generations. Today’s young people are lucky if they can afford housing, crammed like termites into a skyscraper.
âIt means we’ve backed off if people can’t afford a house with a front yard and a back yard like we could.
âI always say I won the luckiest lottery of my life being born in the 1940s.
âWe narrowly missed Vietnam, we never had to go to war and we had a wonderful time of growth. There is no doubt that I took advantage of it. But you can’t have eternal growth, you have to have a balanced life. ”
Dick says he supports Australia by maintaining an average immigration of around 70,000 per year.
“But when it reaches 200,000 people a year, that will bring our population to 100 million by the end of this century, when our grandchildren are still alive.”
âFew think that 100 million people are essential for an arid country like Australia.
âWe have to stop growing someday, to improve efficiency and reduce waste, just not having more and more people, or we are doomed. “
Dick’s book (My adventurous life. Allen & Unwin) describes his many breathtaking, risky and record breaking adventures.
Among the most exciting, he says, were his solo helicopter trips around the world, including the time he had to land his helicopter on a ship between Japan and Alaska to refuel because Russia was closed to foreigners.
He found the business exciting, starting with his company which made radio kits. He sold Dick Smith Electronics to Woolworths for $ 25 million.
Dick launched Australian geography magazine which he sold to Fairfax Media in 1995 for $ 41 million.
In 1991, Dick and Pip flew over Mount Everest in their helicopter, taking photos for Australian
âPip was the first woman to fly around the world in a helicopter,â Dick told me.
Dick and his co-pilot John Wallington made the first balloon trip through Australia and Dick broke the record for crossing Australia in a solar-powered vehicle.
Dick says electric cars “are for the rich”.
âI have two, but they cost twice as much per kilometer as gasoline cars. It will be a long time before it will be possible to drive around Australia in an electric car. As on Gibb River Road, travel 500 km at no cost and tow a caravan.
Dick thinks nuclear power is “the only way to get low carbon.” But with uranium, most people are against it, so it’s going to be very difficult.
He says he took care of overseeing his foundation, allocating millions of dollars each year to causes and then keeping track.
âI’m so lucky to be alive. Especially when I think of hot air balloon flights and flights around the world in single engine planes.
âI don’t do high-risk things anymore. Charles Kingsford Smith and others lost their lives because they kept pushing the odds too far. I arrived on stage when I said nothing more.