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Dick Smith, AO (born Richard Harold Smith on ) is an Australian entrepreneur, businessman and aviator. He is the founder of Dick Smith Electronics, Dick Smith Foods and Australian Geographic, and was selected as the 1986 Australian of the Yearmarker.

Aviation

Smith learned to fly in 1972, graduating to a twin engine Beech Baron. In 1976 he competed in the Perthmarker to Sydneymarker air race. At the age of 34 he purchased his first helicopter, a Bell Jetranger. With it he made a record-setting flight from Sydneymarker to Lord Howe Islandmarker and return, 1185 km. The helicopter opened new opportunities for exploring places otherwise inaccessible. In 1978 he found the wreck of the Kookaburra aircraft, which crash-landed in the Central Australian Desert in 1929.

Smith's admiration for the early aviation pioneers led him to successfully attempt the first solo helicopter flight around the world. His flight began in Fort Worthmarker, Texasmarker, on 5 August 1982, in a newly purchased Bell Jetranger 206B. On 19 August, the 50th anniversary of James Mollison's solo crossing of the Atlantic, he arrived at Balmoral Castlemarker, United Kingdommarker where he met Prince Charles. From there he flew to Londonmarker, where, later that day, the first stage of his flight ended, after 11752 km. The second stage of his flight started in Londonmarker on 13 September, and finished in Sydneymarker, Australia, 3 October 1982, 23092 km later. On 25 May 1983 the final stage of the flight started. Not being granted permission to land in USSR, he arranged to land on a ship to refuel. His journey ended on 22 July 1983, the 50th anniversary of Wiley Post's solo aeroplane flight around the world on 22 July 1933.

Smith has been a vocal advocate for the civil aviation industry in Australia. He served as Chairman of the board of the Civil Aviation Authority from 1990 to 1992; and Chairman of the board of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority from 1997 to 1999.

Smith was Chairman of the Council for the Centenary of Federation from December 1996 to February 2000, a position he was appointed to by the then Prime Minister, John Howard.

In February 2000, Smith and his co-pilot John Wallington became the first people to successfully complete an east-west crossing of the Tasman Seamarker by balloon, from New Zealandmarker to Australia against generally-prevailing winds.

On 7 January 2006, Smith flew his Cessna Grand Caravan from Sydney to Hariharimarker on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Islandmarker to mark the 75th anniversary of the first solo trans-Tasman flight by Guy Menzies in 1931.

On Tuesday 26 August 2008, Smith with is wife, Pip completed a two and a half year drive by vehicle around the world of over 40,000 kilometers.

Business ventures

Electronics

In 1968, Dick Smith founded a small electronics retailer Dick Smith Electronics. In 1982, he sold the business to Woolworths for $20 million, and the business still retained his name in the business title and a caricature of his image in the company's branding.

Dick Smith Electronics entered the United Statesmarker with stores in Northern California and Los Angeles, but were closed in the late 1980s.

Australian products

Dick Smith Food's "Dickheads" matches
Smith founded Dick Smith Foods in 1999, marketed as a crusade against foreign ownership of Australian food producers, particularly Arnott's Biscuits, which in 1997 became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company. Dick Smith Foods only sells foods produced in Australia by Australian-owned companies.

Dick Smith Foods' products are often named to parody the items they compete with – for example, in competition with Redheads matches, Smith sells near-identically packaged matches called "Dickheads" with the text on the rear stating "We would have to be complete dickheads to let most of our famous Australian brands be taken over by foreign companies. Brands such as Vegemite, Aeroplane Jelly, Arnott’s, Speedo and Redhead Matches are in overseas hands. This means the profit and wealth created goes overseas and robs our children and grandchildren of a future". A chocolate biscuit called "Temptin'" competed directly with the established favourite Arnott's Tim Tam. In 2003 Arnott's took legal action against Dick Smith Foods, resulting in an out-of-court settlement that required the "p" in the Temptin' logo to be increased in size.

Publishing

In 1983 Smith published the book "The Earth Beneath Me" which described his solo helicopter flight around the world. Two documentaries were also filmed during the flight, and a third one soon after.In 1986, Smith founded the magazine Australian Geographic, a National Geographicmarker-style magazine focusing on Australia. Smith didn't want to greatly expand Australian Geographic, but his friend and CEO Ike Bain convinced him to change his mind and soon it was a thriving business.

Stunts

Smith has also attempted a number of well-publicised practical jokes, the grandest of which was the "attempt" to tow an iceberg from Antarcticamarker to Australia to obtain more fresh water. In the early 1980s Dick Smith served as the conductor aboard a London double decker bus which jumped 15 motorcycles. The bus, driven by Hans Tholstrup, was a humorous poke at Evel Knievel who had visited Australia in 1979 and jumped his motorcycle over buses. Dick Smith's presence on the bus was a last minute decision by himself.

Awards

Smith was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours of 1999, for his services to the community, charity and business.

Dick Smith was awarded Australian of the Yearmarker in 1986.

Smith was awarded the Baden-Powell Award in 1966, the highest award in the Rover Section, after 14 years in the Scouting movement.

Smith gained his amateur radio licence at the age of 17 and holds call sign VK2DIK.

Dick Smith was named an Australian Living Treasure in 1997.

Advocacy

In 2005, Dick Smith gave public support to the asylum seeker Peter Qasim. Qasim was released later in 2005 by the Australian Government after seven years in detention. This support included the offer to visit Indiamarker seeking evidence of Qasim's claims.

Smith donated AU$60,000 in February 2007 towards the campaign to secure a fair trial for Australian terrorism suspect David Hicks who had been held in a U.S. military prison in Cuba'smarker Guantanamo Bay for five years, saying he wanted Hicks to get "a fair trial, a fair go". Fresh charges, including attempted murder, had been filed against Hicks earlier that month. Hicks pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in March 2007 as part of a plea bargain, and was released from custody in December 2007.

Smith is a founder and a patron of the Australian Skeptics. In July 1980, Smith collaborated with renowned skeptic James Randi to test water divining offering a prize of $40,000 for a successful demonstration.

In response to a large increase in pertussis cases during a 2008/09 outbreak, Smith funded a national ad in The Australian encouraging parents to "Get The Facts" and derided the Australian Vaccination Network as an anti-vaccination organisation.

Smith came to the financial rescue of Australian Greens leader and Senator Bob Brown after he was left with a $240,000 anti-logging court bill. A failure to pay would have resulted in Brown having to declare bankruptcy, and therefore lose his seat in the Senate.

References

  1. Glines, Carroll V., Round-the-world flights, p 316
  2. Smith, D., The Earth Beneath Me, ISBN 0 207 14360 6, p. 1-3
  3. Smith, D., The Earth Beneath Me, ISBN 0 207 14360 6
  4. Evel Knievel
  5. It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia
  6. Dick Smith to bail Brown out: ABC News 9/6/2009


Further reading

  • Bain, Ike. The Dick Smith Way, McGraw-Hill, Sydney, 2002.
  • Smith, Dick. The earth beneath me : Dick Smith's epic journey across the world, Angus & Robertson London 1983, ISBN 0207146306
  • Smith, Dick. Our fantastic planet : circling the globe via the poles with Dick Smith, Terry Hills N.S.W. Australian Geographic, 1991, ISBN 1862760071



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