On 18May2014 I received sad and shocking news by email that former DC-3 Caribbean pilot and talented photographer, with several books on propliners to his name, Austin J. Brown passed away on May 11th.
As an aspiring aviation enthusiast I bought aviation photo negatives from him during early/1970s and I met him, got to know him better, when I worked at the airport and he flew the Cessna Titan from Exeter to Schiphol for Air Westward.
We got reacquainted a few years ago, exchanged emails and talked on the phone a few times. He lived in Marbella,Spain then.
It seems fitting for me to add a profile about him on my website, as I value the memories I have of him.
Austin John Brown and his dog, Baloo
A portrait of AJB in younger years.
From the website www.aviationpictures.com
AJB's photo service through the website www.fineartamerica.com
Background information through Austin's Linked In page
ASSISTANT TRAFFIC OFFICER - SILVER CITY AIRWAYS
July 1961 – 1961 (less than a year) NEWCASTLE AIRPORT UK.
My first job was as a temporary Traffic Officer with Silver City Airways at Newcastle Airport during the Summer Holidays of 1961 at the age of 15, gaining experience in passenger and freight handling, reservations and documentation.
This led me into my chosen career in aviation. I had also been raised by my father as a photographer in his professional business and this led to founding material for the Aviation Picture Library.
I returned to this position during the second part of my Summer Holidays in 1962 following a spell as a Comis Waiter for the Duke of Roxburghe on his annual grouse shoot in Glenesk Scotland and later at Floors Castle, the family seat.
ATCA (AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL ASSISTANT)
BOARD OF TRADE (CIVIL AVIATION)
October 1966 – January 1967 (4 months) MANCHESTER AIRPORT UK
I passed my Civil Service Board to become an Air Traffic Control Assistant within the Board of Trade in 1966 and was attached to Manchester Airport Air Traffic Control Radar where I worked for four months.
Following my A-Level results, I was invited to become an Air Traffic Control Officer Cadet at the BoT ATC Training School at Bournemouth.
However, I had also applied for Pilot Training Sponsorship with Cambrian Airways in South Wales and won a place on an Ab Initio Training Course with them at Airwork Services Training in Perth Scotland, which I chose, commencing flying training on the 7th.March 1967.
I completed my flying training upon passing my final Instrument Rating on the 22nd.May 1968 and joined the airline as a Second Officer that day.
SECOND OFFICER/FIRST OFFICER/SENIOR FIRST OFFICER
CAMBRIAN AIRWAYS/BRITISH AIRWAYS REGIONAL DIVISION
May 1968 – July 1978 (10 years 3 months) - CARDIFF/LIVERPOOL/BIRMINGHAM
Arriving in the airline too late in the summer season to be trained as a co-pilot on the Vickers Viscount 701.
I gained work experience in all departments of the company and then trained as a Steward and operated in the cabin for the rest of the Summer season gaining first-hand experience on the airline's routes, sitting in in the cockpit for approaches and landings. I passed my Final Line Check on the Vickers Viscount 701 on 14th. January 1969, being promoted to a First Officer upon Type Rating.
I converted to the Viscount 806X on the 23rd. December 1971.
I began conversion training on the BAC 1-11/400 jet on the 1st.May 1973 which I flew as a Senior First Officer until leaving British Airways for my first Command with Air Westward in Exeter on the 31st. July 1978 flying for Peter Cadbury of Westward TV.
During my time with Cambrian/British Airways I was temporarily based in Prestwick Scotland and Lyons France. When I had the opportunity I flew sightseeing tours over the Western Isles of Scotland, engaged in Air-to-Ground oblique photography mainly in the sector of the UK between West London and the Isles of Scilly, usually on commission from Commercial Estate Agents, as well as engaging in some private flying in the UK and France.
August 1978 – January 1979 (6 months) Exeter, United Kingdom
Taking my first Command with Peter Cadbury's new airline Air Westward flying Cessna 404 Titan aircraft out of Exeter in the UK, I flew single pilot schedules to London Gatwick, Glasgow, Paris, Southampton to Brussels.
I also flew the Britten-Norman Islander STOL aircraft in and out of small strips and motor racing circuits which later qualified me to be a bush pilot.
One of my most memorable passengers was Sir Lawrence Olivier whom I flew down from Gatwick one bright morning at low level to let him enjoy the scenery.
Following a forty minute flight, which he really loved, he told me who he was. He was flying down to the SouthWest to star in a film with John Travolta. What a wonderful man!
Towards the end of January 1979 it was becoming apparent that Air Westward had problems and they were taken over by British Island Airways.
At that point I decided to leave and take my wife and family of two little girls out to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean to fly for Air BVI.
The Islander aircraft was my ticket into the airline as they flew into various bush strips and I had had the experience. I also believe that my British Airways training gave me a good pedigree.
February 1979 – June 1980 (1 year 5 months) -
Tortola British Virgin Islands BWI
Initially arriving as a Captain on the Islander I was then trained as a First Officer on the Douglas DC-3, an aircraft I had always wanted to fly. It is an iconic airliner which first flew for American Airlines in 1935. Their five DC-3s were in immaculate condition and operated between San Juan Puerto Rico and Antigua.
The flying was intensive and I clocked up over 1000 hours on the type in the time I was based there. It really taught me to fly. Which is a strange thing to say after flying nearly 5000 hours on more modern aircraft.
During my time there my friend Chuck Tobias set up the Pusser's Rum factory, and asked me to illustrate his first brochure.
I was the only person with a Hasselblad on the island, and in conjunction with a colour lab in San Juan called 'CaribColor', I photographed people and weddings on the island where the scenery was to die for.
We made occasional journeys through the Bahamas chain up to Miami for major engineering work. And as the fuel crisis of the time dictated we dropped into many islands along the way to pick up fuel.
The Caribbean adventure came to an end one night when, in the middle of a thunderstorm, over the mountains of St.John, we had the left engine explode and by good luck made it onto the runway at Beef Island. Although I flew again the next day I decided that the time had come to return to the UK, especially as our girls needed to get to big school to prepare them for O-Levels.
On returning to the UK I found myself flying for a company out of Cardiff for a couple of months on Night Mail who I discovered never paid my National Insurance. They were quickly taken over by a Luton based company called Executive Express under the direction of the CAA.
July 1980 – October 1982 (2 years 4 months) -Luton Airport/Bristol UK
Based at Bristol Lulsgate Airport and occasionally at Luton
I initially flew Datapost between Bristol and the Post Office hub at Liverpool Speke Airport using the Cessna 404 again, the type I had been introduced to in Air Westward in 1978.
We flew pop groups around Europe, as the owner of the company was Gerry Bron, the music impresario who ran the Bronze record label out of The Roundhouse in Camden Town North London.
In June 1982 the company acquired an Embraer Bandeirante and began schedules to and from Brussels to add to the charter work. It was within this company that I began working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority Flight Operations Department as there was an interchange of pilots for commercial experience. I had begun to take close formation air-to-air photographs and they assisted my approval. Upon their closure in October 1982 I moved back to the Caribbean to fly for LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) out of Grenada.
Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)
October 1982 – December 1982 (3 months) - Antigua/Grenada/Barbados/St.Vincent/St.Lucia
LIAT gave me a command of the Bandeirante which was owned and operated within the group by the Government of Grenada. I flew a regular schedule between Grenada, Trinidad and Barbados and also flew their Islander up-island through Cariacou and Union Island to St.Vincent and St.Lucia calling in at various island strips upon demand.
More photography from the air and on the ground.
By Christmas 1982 there was a real worry on Grenada that the island would shortly get invaded and its Communist Government ousted by the United States. I decided to come back to the UK and fly freelance for a number of companies including Air Commuter, out of Coventry, on schedules to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
I also flew freelance for Airmore, Dan-Air Centreline and Hubbardair.
These flights included Oil Rig Support, TNT Skypak, Higgs Newspaper Charters and Ford Spares Charters.
Chief Pilot Bristol UK
January 1984 – March 1986 (2 years 3 months) - Bristol and Alderney
Began flying for Aviation West on ad hoc charters as Chief Pilot on the Britten-Norman Islander and TrIslander as well as their Cessna 414 on Air Ambulance flights.
In the Summer of 1985, whilst flying through Stavanger Norway, I met a fellow pilot who had just been offered a contract flying a Cessna 404 for a Franco-Australian Diamond Mine in the Marxist Revolutionary Republic of Guinee West Africa, but he needed holiday coverage for two months every six. Was I available? Of course I was.
And so at the end of September I started to fly in what is now best known as Guinee Conakry, taking a break from Aviation West until January 1986. More photography!
September 1985 – October 1987 (2 years 2 months) - CONAKRY/GBENKO GUINEE
I flew the Cessna 404 freelance for Aredor Guinee SA, a franchise set up by the Government of Guinee and Bridge Oil of Sydney, Australia to mine diamonds in the region around Gbenko and Kissidougou near the Mali border.
The intention was to securely fly the gems and company executives between the mine and the capital, Conakry, but very soon we were flying air ambulance in co-ordination with our hospital and the Canadian hospital on the coast at Kawass, producing our own Health Service for the local people. Communications flights covered Senegal, Guinee Bissau and Sierra Leone.
The franchise had been set up following the death of President Seku Toure who upon independence from de Gaulle's France in October 1958 had turned Guinee into a closed country. The new president Lansana Conte slowly began opening the country up to the West from 1984 and I flew holiday relief for the regular captain until October 1987. A very raw but beautiful country.
I discovered after I was issued with my Guineen flying licence that in Guinee, only the military are allowed to fly. So as an officer in the Guineen Air Force I am still waiting for my uniform to arrive!
Jersey European Airlines
April 1986 – September 1990 (4 years 6 months) - Exeter UK
A chance meeting with the Chief Pilot of Jersey European on his honeymoon in Grenada led me to a freelance position back in the UK flying the Bandeirante for his company for four and a half years. Routes covered included the UK, Channel Islands, Ireland and France, with a break when required to operate in Guinee.
During the last month he aircraft was leased to Business Air in Aberdeen and I discovered that I had been leased with it in the contract!
Living in West London, as I then was, made it difficult to carry on the operation.
Expecting my first son, I decided to cease commercial flying and set up an agency in West London providing images and consultancy for PR, advertising and publishing. The Aviation Picture Library which had been founded in Bristol in 1981 then went full time.
1981 – 2011 (30 years)
Everything! Please contact me.
AJB's work sold through his website www.aviationpictures.com
Some of AJB's other work, showing what a talented photographer he was!
From: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/austin-brown.html ['Member Since: July 13th, 2013']
"Trained by my father as a professional photographer from an early age, I always had the will to fly.
I was sponsored to become an airline pilot in 1967 at the age of 20 by the Welsh airline Cambrian, flying the Vickers Viscount from the age of 21, and photographing everything I saw and did.
Progressing on to the BAC 1-11 jet at 24, my company was absorbed into British Airways.
I left BA in 1977 to follow my own career path, flying for Peter Cadbury, Westward TV and his new airline Air Westward, flying single pilot around Europe and working with his ITV franchise company.
I then moved on to the Caribbean, flying Douglas DC-3's and Islanders for Air BVI in the British Virgin Islands between Puerto Rico and Antigua, with the odd trip up through the Bahamas to Miami for maintenance as required.
Leaving Air BVI a couple of years later, I came back to the UK to fly for Executive Express out of Luton and Bristol.
The company was owned by Gerry Bron, who ran the Bronze Record Label out of The Round House in Camden Town, and as an impresario managed such artists as Motorhead, Girl's School and Marianne Faithful. Flying Pop Groups around Europe, we also operated schedules to Brussels daily.
When the company went into liquidation, I went back to the Southern Caribbean to fly for LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) specifically flying for the Government of Grenada. This introduced me to the islands south of Antigua to Trinidad.
Prior to the Grenada invasion in 1982, I returned to the UK to fly for Jersey European Airlines (now Fly BE) taking six month sabbaticals to fly for a Franco-Australian diamond mine in the Marxist Revolutionary Republic of Guinee in West Africa as their relief air ambulance pilot.
Having flown in some very interesting theatres, and photographing my exploits extensively, I returned to West London in 1990 when my son was born and set up a specialised picture source library consultancy, which I ran until 2005.
Flyer Magazine in the UK engaged me as their Chief Photographer from Issue 1, and I worked with them for 15 years until 2005.
I participated in the British Airways advertising campaign when they introduced their new low fares in 2006, (their Fluffy Clouds project) working with Bartle Bogle Heggarty when they won the BA account from Saatchi & Saatchi.
I am also a Getty photographer, and was involved in the sale of one of my images of a Brigantine to John Player's Cigarettes in 2005 for some $100,000 for future usage.
During these years, I also crossed the North Atlantic delivering an Avro 748 from Manchester to the BVI, was one of a crew of four who flew two vintage aeroplanes, an Avro Anson and a de Havilland Dove from to UK to Bahrain and back for Gulf Air's 50th. Anniversary in 2000, and also took part in the National Air Tour 2003, where we flew 28 70 year-old aeroplanes around the Midwest of the United States re-enacting the 1932 Ford Reliability Tour to commemorate the 100th.anniversary of manned flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903.
I moved to Southern Spain in 2005 to concentrate in digitising and organising my collection of some 250,000 images for the future, negotiating image usages for publication and advertising as required.
In the last six months I have part illustrated three books with Orion Books, Transworld Publishers and Dorling Kindersley, so things are going very well in what is said to be a declining economy. If you have the content, you have the edge.
In 1999 I acquired the John Stroud Archival Collection, a very comprehensive monochrome collection of aviation prints going back to 1880. Although it is a copyright minefield compared with my own material, which is all mine to negotiate, I have built up relationships with most of the copyright holders over the last fifty years, and can negotiate rights on most of the images."
Marbella & London.
Austin J. Brown - thank you for the memories.