A tribute to Laurie Crowley by Richard Leahy

June 20, 2013 at 4:58 am (Australian Aviation, Aviation in PNG, expatriates, Laurie Crowley, Papua New Guinea, Tribute)

June 13, 2013

Dear Dave,

Laurie Crowley passed away yesterday at the age of 93 in the Highlands of NSW.

I am sure that Laurie will be recognised as being the most significant Light Aircraft Air Charter Operator so far in the history of PNG Aviation.

Laurie was an aircraft mechanic (fitter) in the RAAF (I think) during the war, and learned to fly soon after hostilities ended.

In early 1950 Laurie with another pilot, Ray Stockden, started up Crowley Stockden Airways at Lae. They began with Tiger Moths, and from there followed a fascinating assortment of aircraft which included Avro Ansons, a Curtiss Robin, a Piper L-5 Stinson, Piper Apache, and later Piper Aztecs and, of course, Cessna 170s, Cessna 205s, and I think, later a Cessna 206.  Laurie had an Aero Commander and a Helio Courier in his fleet for a time as well.

At some stage Laurie took over Ray Stockden’s share, and the company became Crowley Airways. Sometime in the 1960s Laurie decided to develop a helicopter operation as well, and I think, at one time fielded up to six Choppers, a Bell 47 G-5, Bell G-47 3B1s, and Bell Jet Ranger 206s.

Laurie eventually sold out the entire operation during the mid-1970s, and  moved to New South Wales with his family.

A little known fact, and I would include the members of Laurie’s family in this statement as well, is that during 1959 I would spend about one hour each and every week with Laurie in a camp hut at my family’s cattle station at Baiune, which was between Mumeng and Bulolo.

DASF were endeavouring to eradicate a cattle tick problem that we had at Baiune, and once a week they would charter Laurie and his Cessna 170 to take the stock inspector, at that time Neville Robinson, in to spray our cows for tick.

I would walk into the property at dawn on the designated days (one and a half hours walk each way) to ensure that the cattle had been yarded for the spraying operation.

After Laurie brought Neville in to the airstrip, I would leave the spraying  to him, and our lads and I, would spend the hour the spraying took with Laurie, asking him endless questions about every aspect of flying in PNG.

I can say without any fear of contradiction, that I learnt more from Laurie during that year than I ever learnt from a text book or from a flying school. I was only seventeen at the time, and although Laurie always had a book to read, each and every time he saw me walking over he would close the book, and very gracefully put up with my endless questions.

Later that year I would go on to take out a Private Flying Licence, and about three years later a Commercial Licence.

Laurie operated both fixed and rotary wing aircraft for around twenty- five years. No paying passenger was ever killed flying in a Crowley Aircraft whilst Laurie was at the helm.

I would like to pass on my condolences to Laurie’s family, and I’m greatly saddened by the passing of one of aviation’s greats.


Richard Leahy.


See: http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2013/08/laurie-crowley-dies-at-93-pioneering-png-aviator.html#comments



  1. Shane Crowley said,

    Richard, thanks for this very nice tribute for Laurie. Regards, Shane

  2. Alan Pretty said,

    Very Interesting article regarding a period if PNG just prior to my personal connection to the Sepik area of PNG

  3. Susie Edmonds said,

    Great letter . I was born and bred in PNG growing up in Banz and now back here working for an aviation company .The pioneers of aviation in this country were first class !!

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