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Fri, Dec 08, 2017

Gone West: Grumman Albatross Pilot Mike Bialka

Had Planned To Recreate A Famous Flight With The Airplane In May, 2019

Aero-News has learned of the passing of pilot Mike Bialka, who was the captain of the Grumman Albatross "Zeus" that was well known among aviation circles in the area around Houston.

The Courier newspaper reports that Bialka, 65 of  Conroe, TX, was co-owner of the seaplane that was based at the Conroe-North Houston Regional airport. He was also the president of the non profit organizations Seaplane Crossings and Everything Albatross, as well as being a senior captain for Southwest airlines.

Bialka died suddenly last week while waiting for a flight on which he was a passenger at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, according to the report. Stewart Lawrence of Kingwood, TX, who co-owned Zeus with Bialka and is chairman of Seaplane Crossings, said Bialka was traveling to San Antonio to meet his girlfriend and take her to Dublin.

Bialka regularly flew the Albatross over Lake Conroe on Veterans Day. This year prior to that flight, he told the Courier about his plans to recreate the first flight U.S. Navy Curtiss NC Flying boats across the Atlantic on the 100th anniversary of the event. On may 8, 1919 three airplanes set out from New York to make the crossing with the help of the U.S. Navy, which positioned ships along the way to help them navigate across the ocean. Two of the three airplanes did not complete the crossing. The one that did arrived on May 31, 1919.

Bialka planned to fly with one other Albatross in May of 2019. A third airworthy aircraft could not be found to make the trip.

Bialka was a U.S. Navy pilot where he was assigned to fleet squadron VP-40 flying P-3C Orions. After his military service, he joined Southwest Airlines in 1982, and flew for them for 35 years.

While Bialka may be gone, his foundation will continue. The family asks that donations be made in his memory to Seaplane Crossings.

(Image from Seaplane Crossings Facebook page)

FMI: Original Report, www.seaplanecrossings.org

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