'Duffy' the pilot to KI celebrates his 90th birthday | PHOTOS

Howard "Duffy" Duffield made a career out of flying between Kangaroo Island and Adelaide.

He flew for Emu Airways and then Air Kangaroo Island. 

Now he is returning to Adelaide to catch up with family and friends for his 90th birthday on April 13. 

Duffy, as he was known to everyone on the Island, flew small aircraft between Adelaide and KI, two to three times a day for more than 20 years.

Each flight saw him visit one or more of the four airstrips on the Island serviced by Emu Airways, Kingscote, Parndana, Penneshaw and American River.

John Raye bought out Emu Airways and the service continued as Air Kangaroo Island.

A celebration was held on the Island when Duffy reached his 10,000th flight and he eventually reached 14,000 flights. 

Emu Airways was owned and run by Lance McKean, who was not only a boss but also a good friend of Duffy's.

McKean also flew to KI, but not as often as Duffy did, according to Duffy's daughter Lynette Birse, who lives in Adelaide.

Duffy retired from flying in about 1998 and is now living in the Philippines, she said.

"Dad has had a very varied and full life doing many different things, after my mother and his family, flying was his true love," she said.

Duffy is visiting Adelaide in April to celebrate his 90th birthday with family and friends.

Among those present will be fellow Emu Airways and Air KI pilot Bill Riceman, who recently flew around KI taking photos of each of the old civil-aviation airstrips. 

He and his wife now divide their time between Adelaide and the Island and he still flies a light aircraft.

As Riceman was speaking with the locals, they remembered Duffy and he thought that they would be interested to read about his latest milestone of turning 90.

"Back when Duffy was still flying, Air Traffic Control named one of the waypoints used for navigation between the Island and Adelaide "DUFFY" in honour of Howard. Sadly, that waypoint no longer exists," he said.

He said aviation on KI had changed over the years and increased safety regulation meant flying small aircraft to remote strips became unfeasible for regular passenger service.

Interestingly, charter company Chinta Air this summer trialed and promoted its "air taxi" service on Kangaroo Island, but the days of regular service to all parts of the Island are long gone.

Back then, Emu Airways and Air KI were flying eight-seater, twin-engined Cessna 402 aircraft.

When Riceman set himself the task of finding the old airstrips, he had trouble locating the Parndana strip. 

Locals Neil and Anne Arnold, who used to be the Parndana agents, together with some other old timers were able to recognise the correct paddock.

Like all the other airstrips, the old Pardana strip is located on private land. It is just east of where Wedgewood Road turns south west and Airport Road branches off. 

The American River airstrip is also abandoned and lies north of the township near the telecommunications tower at the eastern end of Ballast Head Road.

The old Penneshaw strip meanwhile can still be seen on the satellite view of Google maps and is located on the corner of Hungerford Road and Willson River Road.

Riceman on his mission to photograph the KI airstrips and his other flights now uses Ozrunways, the air navigation app of choice for modern pilots.

"Of course, back in the 70s, 80s and 90s when Duffy was flying, we used maps, pencils and dead reckoning much of the time. Not these days!"

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