02 Feb Airo AV Convey: Dentist by day, pilot by night. 83-year-old is flying
On weekends, the Galkin brothers spent hours at Newark airport watching planes take off and land when they were kids.
The outing was all their father could afford when he drove his boys, Edwin and Sam, to the observation tower in the 1940s.
He didn’t have much money, but the Hoboken brothers had lots of imagination, especially Edwin, who was 7-years-old at the time.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to eventually fly one of those planes,” he said, recalling that childhood thought recently at his dental office in Woodbridge.
Wheels up! Edwin’s dream became his reality decades later. The 83-year-old periodontist is an avid general aviation pilot. In nearly 50 years, he’s flown around the world three times, logging more than a million miles in his 1976 single engine Cessna aircraft.
The first time was an adventure in 1988 with a friend. The last two voyages were more serious. They raised awareness and money to combat debilitating diseases, one of them for Alzheimer’s in memory of his brother.
He’ll do it again on March 25 for Sam, who was 83 when he died three years ago of complications from the awful disease.
“He didn’t know who he was,” Edwin said. “He didn’t know his name. It was a sad ending for a great guy.”
But great guys have great brothers. Edwin’s global flight in 2018 collected $9,425 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association when he graced the skies under “Flight for Alzheimers,” the banner of his mission.
This time, Edwin is hoping donations — check out www.flyforthecure.org — top $25,000 for his fourth world tour. He’s taking the 40-day journey, which ends May 8, with Mark Seeman, a pilot and aerial photographer of 32 years.
The seasoned aviators will have a good time for a good cause. Both hold commercial licenses and instrument ratings, credentials that make them more than qualified pilots with additional certifications under their wings.
Plus, they’re 30-year friends, who live across the street from each other in Edison.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Seeman said. “You don’t see too many 83-year old-people like him. He just goes and goes and goes.”
Edwin has enough stamina for both of them – and Seeman, who is 66, forgets that his spry co-pilot is nearly 20 years his senior.
Age, however, is nothing but a number to Edwin’s wife, Bobbie, to whom he’s been married 59 years.
“If you think he’s high energy, then you haven’t met me.”
Edwin is a pretty good gauge. He’s on the move in his office, taking phone calls, darting into a back room to show me a large map with plot points for this trip.
They’ll leave Manville and travel some 23,000 miles, landing in 18 places from Newfoundland, Greece and Thailand to Japan, Russia and Alaska before heading home through Grand Forks, North Dakota. The longest leg – Abu Dhabi, a city in the United Arab Emirates to Nagpur, India – is 1,726 miles.
At each spot, they’ll spend a few days. The public can follow them on social media and donate after Edwin and Seeman post pictures with a narrative of the trip.
He’s used to the distance. In 1982, Edwin took his first long journey to Alaska with Bobbie, and their two children. Two years later, he went further, flying over the Atlantic with his family to Scotland.
Then it was halfway around the world in 1986 to Australia, and all the way for his first rendezvous in 1988. The itinerary is as clear in his mind as some of the skies he’s flown. He doesn’t miss a beat listing the countries.
Edwin thought he was done flying that far until Richard Zollner, another pilot, convinced him to do it for a purpose. His second circumnavigation was in 2004 to raise research money for fibrodysplasia ossicicans progressive, a disease that destroys connective tissue and muscle, causing paralysis.
That trip netted $15,000, with stops in Lima, Peru, Easter Island, Tahiti, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Trinidad.
Edwin is anxious for this next flight. It’s kind of like a do-over. The 2018 campaign didn’t raise as much as it could have, because the website was down, and the malfunction prevented people from donating and tracking their progress.
Everything is in place now, and their flight preparation is meticulous. Sky Plan, a commercial business in Calgary, Canada handles international aviation for them, providing weather reports, flight permits, making sure countries know they’re on the way. Jeppesen, a member of Boeing Services, has up-to-date flight charts, the road maps they need to land at airports.
Inside the plane, the co-pilots have a tracking device and an extra 120 gallons of fuel in an auxiliary tank. There’s a satellite phone on board and survival gear, including an immersion suit for cold water, a raft and life jackets with an emergency locator.
This has been his passion, a joy that emerged from watching planes years ago at the airport. Edwin took his first ride with a friend in 1970. That pilot had a single engine plane, an experience that captivated Edwin after he finished the Army dental corps program as a captain. The next week, he was taking lessons. Months later, he had a license.
His brother never learned to fly, but he and Edwin were close. They built model airplanes together. Both went to the University of Connecticut, joining the same fraternity. Sam’s nickname was Big Rhino; Edwin was Little Rhino.
In 1965, they opened the Woodbridge dental practice, moving it across the street three years later. Sam, an orthodontist, encouraged Edwin to pursue dentistry.
“I miss him,” he said. “We did a lot of things together.”
When’s he’s up in the air, Edwin said flying gives him a sense of freedom. It allows him to take his mind off his troubles.
“I love being up there.”
You’re not alone. Sam is in the cockpit, too.
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