Kevin O'Reilly's - Flyers of Time

Pioneer Aviation History

Kevin O'Reilly's Flyers of Time

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin is proud to maintain membership of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia, the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre, a number of Victorian Historical Societies, the RAAF Association, and the Returned and Servicemens League.
Kevin has authored three books. In Just Five Years, a history of the RAAF and Nhill during World War II and Flyers of Time, a history of aviation in country Victoria and the Riverina, and Charles Pratt of Belmont Common, a biography of a pioneer aviator and aerial photographer based in Geelong between the two great wars of the twentieth century.
    The book, Charles Pratt of Belmont Common, traces the life of the subject, an unsung pioneer of Australian aviation and how fate decreed that he would spend the greater part of his life in Australia instead of New Zealand, the place of his birth.
    Charles was born at Wellington N.Z., in 1892, had only a basic education which was common in those days, was employed as a grocer`s clerk until enlisting in WW1, he fought at Gallipoli as a soldier of the Wellington Mounted Rifles, then as a signaller with the Light Horse in Palestine before learning to fly with the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt.
    It was one of those life changing occurrences in 1919, on his way home to New Zealand with four WW1 aircraft to set up an aviation business in Wellington, N.Z., when a prolonged shipping strike tied up his vessel in Melbourne. On Boxing Day, December 26 1919, there was an aerial pageant initiated by Joseph Larkin of the newly formed company, Larkin Sopwith Aviation who operated his aerodrome at Glenhuntly. The public enthusiasm for this exhibition at the Epsom racecourse at Mordialloc no doubt inspired Charles Pratt to assemble one of his machines from the ship, tied up at Victoria Dock, just west of Spencer Street. He daringly flew it off the wharf and landed at the Carey airfield, Fishermens Bend and commenced to fly those adventurous passengers who wished to experience the thrill of flight and to see Melbourne from the air.
    The book traces the lives of Charles and his brothers, Percy, Alf and Frank (Les), who followed him to Geelong, all to commence successful businesses. They were granted and used the facilities of the Gordon Institute of Technology to build, assemble and repair aircraft at that college and Percy Pratt instructed students in the technology of aircraft construction. It tells of Charles long ambition to become the first to fly to New Zealand and how the Civil Aviation department prevented this in 1927 by refusing to sanction the flight in a single engined machine.
    Charles was a lifelong passionate photographer and a camera accompanied him throughout his life, both on the ground and as a professional aerial photographer. Many of his photographs are now held for posterity by the State Library of Victoria and are available to the public. A friend and colleague, William Hansom “Airspy,” the original Melbourne aerial photographer, was flown by Charles on aerial “shoots” during the 1930s.
    It tells of his time in New Guinea flying gold and supplies to the goldfields and of being the first, together with Ray Parer, to cross the Owen Stanley Range from Port Morseby to Lae after assembling their two WW1 machines on Ela Beach and flying directly off the beach with full loads including their mechanics on this daring expedition.
    After moving from Geelong to Essendon in 1938 with his flying school Charles took over the business of Matthews Aviation. When WW2 was imminent he instructed student pilots for the RAAF as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. From 1943 to 1947 Charles flew for Australian National Airways as a captain on interstate passenger flights. Postwar, Charles continued his flying doing charter, aerial photography and joyflights from Essendon before moving to Moorabbin.
* You are encouraged to look through images which were not included in the book. Click on GALLERY above.
* Book sales will not commence before the launch at the Gordon College, Geelong on March 28 2017 at 1.30pm. Copies may be reserved by giving your details by email at [email protected]