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

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Christmas cards from Goya Henry

December 15, 2012 at 5:45 am (Australian Aviation, Commentary)

Click on link below:


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Was Goya Henry the first to fly a plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

January 18, 2012 at 11:50 am (Australian Aviation, Commentary, Goya Henry, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River, Small ships PNG, Wewak)

I strongly suspect that he was the first to fly under the Harbour Bridge – a truly remarkable man and a friend. I’ll never forget the times with him travelling on the MV Thetis to Manam and other islands, and the wonderful conversations we had about  pre-war Australian Aviation, Territory characters and others, Bill Tebb, a fellow small ship’s captain, classical literature, and matters medical – both our fathers were country GPs, the sinking of the Titanic, the law, and numerous other topics..

When he volunteered for the RAAF at the start of the war, a senior officer, previously trained to fly by Goya said to him: “they’ll never take you, Goya, first you’re not a Mason, not a Catholic, and you can fly a plane.”  The official reason why he was not accepted was that he’d lost a leg.

The remarkable thing about the old PNG was that you were given the opportunity to sometimes meet  people like Goya.

See: https://deberigny.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/recently-discovered-notes-and-cards-from-goya-henry/#comments


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