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Galaxy Flying School memories at Essendon.

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Galaxy Flying School memories at Essendon.

Old 17th Apr 2010, 10:33
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Galaxy Flying School memories at Essendon.

Does anyone at Essendon remember Galaxy Flying School which was situated in Wirraway Road near the ATC control tower?

A few days ago on a bright sunny morning, I happened to stroll past the Galaxy Flying School building and peeped through the windows. The original owners of the flying school had long since passed away and the building has been empty for years.
The place was deserted and decrepit and I wondered why the owners of the airport had not demolished it long ago. Perhaps the owners are hoping some one will eventually move in. A temporary holding pad for Afghans asylum seekers from Christmas Island, maybe?

This post is to encourage a few replies from those who remember John and Elizabeth Brown who owned Galaxy Safari Tours well over thirty years ago. A close relative of mine learned to fly there when he was 16 and is now a captain on 737's overseas. He told me the story of undergoing dual instruction on the Galaxy Warrior with Elizabeth Brown as his instructor.

Elizabeth was one tough cookie and could be a bit of a shouter in the Warrior.
On this occasion the dual sequence was PFL.s in the training area west of Bacchus Marsh. Elizabeth had demonstrated one PFL by cutting the mixture and setting up the PFL pattern into the well known area called the Tee of Trees west of Bacchus Marsh. There was an ALA there and big fields.

Before going around again from the PFL, Elizabeth re-started the engine and then climbed to height for the student to conduct another PFL. Handing over control to the student she asked him to get cracking on a PFL. The student had earlier observed Elizabeth using the mixture control in the Warrior to cut the engine to simulate engine failure.

He then cut the mixture only to be on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from the instructor about the folly of cutting the mixture to simulate engine failure. Obviously a case of do as I say - not do as I do... Like I said, Elizabeth could be abrupt at times.

Each Friday evening, John and Elizabeth would open the flying school bar to all comers at Essendon airport and it was a lovely little cocktail bar at that. The floor of the bar-room was polished wood and John would turn up dance music from a stereo radio and people socialised and danced. John was the barman and could pour a mean drink. He was also a flying instructor. The Galaxy Friday nights were a wonderful way of meeting people of aviation backgrounds and there was always a well mannered social crowd.

One of the visitors was a DCA Examiner of Airman Ricky Tate. Ricky was a popular man and one of the best Examiners I have ever known. He was my instructor on Lincoln bombers at Townsville in the early 1950's. In those days the DCA Flying Unit had a DC3 VH-CAN and a couple of F27's VH-CAT and VH-TFE. Often DCA pilots would drop over to Galaxy on Fridays evenings and have a beer or three.

Elizabeth Brown died suddenly of a brain haemorrage around 18 years ago and poor old John Brown never got over the loss of his wife. He gradually went down the drain after that and he lived his final years out at his flying school which was their home. Old friends called in every day to ensure he was eating OK and to check on his mental health which was fading. Always a friendly chap his kindly manner attracted many students to the flying school.

I know I would rather see the Galaxy building pulled down so it's ghosts could fade away. I find it sad to walk by and still see the now faded Galaxy Flying School sign still showing in the cracked paintwork above the weeds and waterless unkempt bushes that block the front entrance to the building with its dust covered club house floors. But for many pilots Galaxy and John and Elizabeth Brown were synonymous with an earlier fun era of flying.
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Old 17th Apr 2010, 12:51
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They turned out a LOT of pilots with that one Cherokee, the rego escapes me, what happened to it?(IAM?)
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Old 17th Apr 2010, 20:48
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IAL was the rego of one of their Warriors.

John was a terrific fellow.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 06:03
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Won't find flying schools around that in the modern world of ASIC cards, political correctness, DAMP testing etc.

Always fond memories of having a couple of cleansing ales with the friendly man from DoT and the CFI after a flight test.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 11:23
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Just had a thought. Memo to the Moderator.

Perhaps this thread might better be moved to the thread called Moonee Ponds International Airport (YMEN) which is currently doing well on this forum?
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 22:41
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Galaxy 1995 - 99

Great thread!

I believe I was one of the last students to pass through Galaxy (PPL & CPL theory). John was my instructor most days but Elizabeth did take me up occasionally.

I had the exact same experience with the mixture control!

I remember on one flight trying to locate an airstrip and finding I was just about overhead decided to join the curcuit and execute the required touch-and-go. JB had other ideas and grabbing the controls spiraled down and lined us up, then promptly hand back over to me. As we were already about half way down the strip I decided to go around and applied full power only to find the controls again fighting against me as JB pointed us downward. I'd had enough at this stage and refused to take the controls back as we were about to touch down with not much runway to spare.

We just made it over the fence at the end of the runway, I think even JB realised it was way too close. Once we were away again I took over and we headed home in silence. Elizabeth met us as we were taxiing in. She could see by the look on my face that all was not well and asked me what had happened. I told her and she promptly credited me back the cost of the hire. JB was sufficiently chasened.

It was the one and only time things got cranky and was fogotten quicky and we retired to the bar.

John and Elizabeth treated me like a son. I remember JB dancing with my dear old Grandma, he had some moves! I met some great pilots in that bar. Some of their stories about PNG led me to eventually make my own way up here, unfortunately not as a pilot.

Shortly after Elizabeth's death I left Australia. The turn out at her funeral was testament to her legacy. On my infrequent trips back home I called on John until one day the door was shut for good.

True characters both of them.
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Old 18th Apr 2010, 22:50
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Centy

IAL was a cruiser PA28. I think it was previously registered A??, perhaps AEN.

I have vivid memories of Elizabeth trotting across the apron wearing those atrocious leopard skin tights.

John was a real gentleman, but unfortunately he kept on flying when he was pretty well past it.

I believe, and the humblest of apologies if I'm wrong, that John and Elizabeth were brother and sister.
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Old 19th Apr 2010, 23:12
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I was in the area the other day so thought I'd take some pics of Galaxy and the one next to it, Essendon Flying School. I noticed a sign on Wirraway Rd saying that the area was a 'National Heritage Precinct' which probably explains why they haven't demolished the building even though it hasn't been occupied for some time.

I vaguely recall in the 90's that both these schools parked their aircraft on the grass behind their buildings. Can anyone confirm this? Nowadays it's not possible of course due to the extension of Wirraway Rd right around to English St.



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Old 20th Apr 2010, 02:20
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Gee, EFS hasn't changed a bit. Is Laurie still going????? He had an old C150 VH-KX? I did a check-out with him seem like 25-30 years ago!!!!!
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Old 21st Apr 2010, 12:36
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I seem to remember the Essendon Flying School building being the Post Office in the 60's/70's.
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Old 11th Aug 2019, 08:53
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I flew with Galaxy in the 70's .Got my instructors rating and IR there. Ended up instructing there on singles and Twins.
John and Elizabeth were good friends and I also did charter work for them in many different types which were cross hired from other operators as was the norm then. Moved on to regional then major airlines but occasionally dropped in on John and Elizabeth. Elizabeth's passing was very sad and although she had a short fuse she was a very caring person. John was the designated chief pilot and was pretty relaxed. If any pilot reading this has a spare pair of Galaxy wings I would be most grateful if you could spare them. I misplaced mine years ago and would love to complete my collection
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 07:07
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Originally Posted by BULLDOG 248 View Post
Gee, EFS hasn't changed a bit. Is Laurie still going????? He had an old C150 VH-KX? I did a check-out with him seem like 25-30 years ago!!!!!
The C150 was VH-KXI and the Piper Apache for twin training was VH-ECY which is still on the airport.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 11:47
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Yes, those were the days in the 70's when there was Galaxy, EFS (Laurie P) and Executive Flying School who did a bit of basic, but mainly instructor and instrument training (Doug Williams, Peter Bini) and everyone got on well. The social side of the airport was often at Galaxy. Sometime in that time period Discover Flying (Maurice Maloney) started in the terminal building and they had some great social nights upstairs in the old lounge. The Police Air Wing started up about that time also. Exec's had a Link Trainer down the south end of the terminal (Keith Hants) was the instructor there for some years and took it over when Execs stopped training and lost the Air Amb contract to Peninsula Air Services (Bill Suhr RIP). Many memories of that time - not the same any more. And I don't think the training is as good as it was then either.

Since this thread started in 2010 is there anyone that can provide an update with pics if possible.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 15:59
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The flying school was eventually demolished and today not a trace remains. About 15 years ago or maybe more, I heard John Brown had been picked up wandering late at night along Sydney Road Brunswick or Coburg clutching a manuscript. He was taken to a nursing home in a side road adjacent to where he was found. I visited him there and was somewhat shocked at his condition. As I said it at least 15 or more years ago so I don't know if he is still there. I very much doubt it.

He didn't recognize me due to his dementia. The staff had seen his hand written manuscript which was mainly about his life with Elizabeth. He rambled on about having it published but it was never going to happen.
I tried to engage him in conversation about the old days but he was beyond it. When I saw him he was sitting at a table along with elderly inmates all of whom had long since lost their marbles. After ten minutes of trying to communicate with John, I realised he was too far gone to make sense so I quietly bade him farewell and walked away for good leaving with him the ghost of his dear Elizabeth to keep him company.

After Elizabeth had died a few years earlier he went down hill rapidly as he was so dependent on her to run Galaxy. I recall hiring his Warrior and he had to check me out although I was a experienced grade one instructor at the time. We did one circuit at Essendon. I was quite alarmed at his general demeanour as I flew the circuit and he rambled and hinted at suicide. I contacted a former RAAF colleague who was now a DCA Examiner and warned him of my concerns. I think it was Al Page but not sure as it was such a long time ago. I think DCA then closed down Galaxy although John continued to live at the flying school.

I dropped in to see him occasionally as did Al Page and others who knew him. One day John showed me a cross-bow and a target he used on the back of a door at Galaxy. This seriously concerned me and it was obvious he was going around the bend. I think I went overseas to work around then and that was the last I heard of Galaxy and John and Elizabeth Brown until the nursing home episode.. A strange couple but very much part of the history of Essendon airport and its various personalities who were around in those days.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 22:28
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I recently spent two weeks in the Hyatt at Essendon Fields and walked around the airport on a memory-lane mission. So many changes, the place is hardly recognisable, just a giant shopping-centre and car-park. I have vivid memories of Bristol Freighters, Dc-3's, Argosies and Dc-9;s. Row after row of light-twins and training aircraft. Long ques to the runway with the odd helicopter thingy clattering about above the mayhem. Today, nothing really happening, seems totally dead. A couple of fancy Global Expresses doing what Global Expresses seem to do, just sitting on the ramp. A few king-Air movements but otherwise nothing. Names like Gordon Howe, Ricky Tate, John Lindsay, Bill Surh, John Flemming and as mentioned, Liz Brown all gone. The complete death of an industry in all its stark reality. What the hell happened?
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 22:40
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Originally Posted by triadic View Post
Yes, those were the days in the 70's when there was Galaxy, EFS (Laurie P) and Executive Flying School who did a bit of basic, but mainly instructor and instrument training (Doug Williams, Peter Bini) and everyone got on well. The social side of the airport was often at Galaxy. Sometime in that time period Discover Flying (Maurice Maloney) started in the terminal building and they had some great social nights upstairs in the old lounge. The Police Air Wing started up about that time also. Exec's had a Link Trainer down the south end of the terminal (Keith Hants) was the instructor there for some years and took it over when Execs stopped training and lost the Air Amb contract to Peninsula Air Services (Bill Suhr RIP). Many memories of that time - not the same any more. And I don't think the training is as good as it was then either.

Since this thread started in 2010 is there anyone that can provide an update with pics if possible.

Good 'ole KH, what a character:-) He would often regale his 3 engine DC adventure:-) Doing my Class IV he would slide back the old canopy of his Link & stick a cuppa in front of you all the time whilst turning inbound on the NDB:-)

I ended up at 'SlyBird', they had the biggest rubber plants in their flying school office, the most planes, I was impressed...……...then!:-) I did the rounds looking at the flying schools inc Galaxy's, they looked too small. 'Discover Lying' was my last choice but oddly enuf did some free lance driving for MM many years latter:-)
A small group of us in the 70's whom worked at EN in the Maint industry bought a C150, I was the only one to go thru to the end (ATPL) as far as I know.

A lot of us older codgers here where lucky enough to witness the good old times, back then there was hope, a future in aviation with planes everywhere, now the memories are fading as is the GA industry:-(
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Old 20th Aug 2019, 23:10
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And now, as of 31 August 2019, Pearson Aviation after 30 years of continuous operation will also close its doors at Essendon.
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Old 21st Aug 2019, 00:36
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Originally Posted by machtuk View Post
Good 'ole KH, what a character:-) He would often regale his 3 engine DC adventure:-) Doing my Class IV he would slide back the old canopy of his Link & stick a cuppa in front of you all the time whilst turning inbound on the NDB:-)

I ended up at 'SlyBird', they had the biggest rubber plants in their flying school office, the most planes, I was impressed...……...then!:-) I did the rounds looking at the flying schools inc Galaxy's, they looked too small. 'Discover Lying' was my last choice but oddly enuf did some free lance driving for MM many years latter:-)
A small group of us in the 70's whom worked at EN in the Maint industry bought a C150, I was the only one to go thru to the end (ATPL) as far as I know.

A lot of us older codgers here where lucky enough to witness the good old times, back then there was hope, a future in aviation with planes everywhere, now the memories are fading as is the GA industry:-(
Was David Bird there at Sky Bird when you were?

Last edited by Stikman; 21st Aug 2019 at 00:36. Reason: Helps to know what I'm talking about..
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