Bryan Gabriel and the Holbrook Ultralight Club

Last edited: 2 May 2023, 12:40pm

Holbrook Ultralight Club (HULC) was founded following the first informal Ultralight ‘fly-in’ at Holbrook in Sept 1986. By November of that year, the Club had formed with seven members. Founding member Bryan Gabriel had acquired the manufacturing rights to the FUM Jeep and Javelin ultralight aircraft, and built a Jeep for the Club. This got the Club off and running in early 1987. Flying training also started with a Thruster Gemini that Bryan had purchased the previous year. By mid-1987 and with membership increasing, a second aircraft, this time the last production Javelin, was built by Bryan and sold to the club.

Over the next twelve months HULC membership grew to twenty seven and the Club took part in its first cross country flight. The Club took both the Jeep and the Javelin to Leeton and back in the company of Bryan’s Gemini and eight other aircraft based at Holbrook. Membership continued to grow, and by 1988 had stabilised at around 60.

In 1989 Holbrook hosted the fly-in over the ANZAC weekend that turned out to biggest ultralight event of its time. As a direct result of the huge success of this Fly-in, the Australian Ultralight Federation (now RAAus) decided to hold its first Ultralight National Fly-in (NatFly) at Holbrook in 1990. The first NatFly was resounding success due largely to the efforts of local Club members. A proud day for the town of Holbrook and the members of the Holbrook Ultralight Club. Such was the success of the first NatFly, the AUF decided to hold the ’91 NatFly at Holbrook for a second year, this time with Bryan as National Fly-in Director. This time almost all of the organisational and administrative positions were filled by HULC members. Another roaring success with attendance up 40-50% on the previous year. Subsequent AUF NatFly events were also held at Holbrook in 1992 and 1994.

In 1990, Bryan proposed that the Club purchase one of the half-acre blocks on the new Holbrook Airfield subdivision proposed by Council with the intention of building a Club hangar. HULC purchased the then privately owned Holbrook Airpark flight training facility in late 1990 and by early 1991 the Club had moved into its new hangar.

Holbrook, having started as the birthplace of the AUF Annual Convention receded into history as did the Club whose membership declined over the next decade, hitting rock-bottom in 2000 with just nine financial members. A change in the Executive that year along with the purchase of the current premises brought about swift and substantial changes in both services and facilities. Bryan served as Club President from April 2002 to February 2015 and then again from April 2018 until October 2019.He was instrumental in getting the Club on its feet and the improvements continue to this day with the average membership at around 45 per annum for the past eleven years.

Bryan’s involvement in ultralight aviation was not limited to HULC. In late 1980’s and early 1990’s he served as a Regional Representative on the AUF Board and during this time was AUF Treasurer. He was also involved in the manufacture of ultralight aircraft having acquired the manufacturing rights to the FUM Javelin and Jeep aircraft in the late 1980’s and the Sadler Vampire in the mid-1990’s. In the mid-1990’s Bryan also undertook the design and construction work on the prototype 75% Spitfire that went on to become the now well-known Supermarine Aircraft Mk25, Mk26 and Mk26B replica Spitfires.

Unfortunately Bryan’s health has recently declined, resulting in him having to leave his airfield home and hangar this year. He is now living in a high care facility in Holbrook. The HULC membership would like to acknowledge his long term and invaluable contribution to the club, helping to get it on its feet, and also his similar contribution to the wider AUF and RAAus community.

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