AIN Blog: Brendan Gallagher’s Influence on Aerospace

 - June 3, 2011, 10:55 AM

Brendan Gallagher died last Sunday morning at his home in London, just days after participating in press trips to Geneva, Belfast and Turkey with his usual enthusiasm and good humor. He was taken at a youthful 60. 

It was almost 40 years ago that Brendan hopped on a train and traveled south to London from his construction job in Birmingham to try for an editorial opening at the British weekly, Flight International. Fortunately for the future of aerospace publishing everywhere, the then editor of that magazine, J.M. “Mike” Ramsden (aka JMR), saw beyond Brendan’s rather tatty interview attire and focused instead on his poise, his vocabulary and his knowledge of things aeronautical–all of which no doubt came across as remarkable for a Brummy construction worker.

I joined Flight a few months later, and for the next five years Brendan and I worked face-to-face at conjoined desks amid the typewriter clatter and bustle in Flight’s crowded press room just south of Blackfriars Bridge in London SE1. Neither of us could believe our luck sitting smack dab in the center of aeronautical happenings at a magazine founded the year Blériot crossed the Channel, but we didn’t make too much of it. I had a lot more learning to do than Brendan did in the art of delivering a magazine to its readers. Brendan was not only the pillar that supported production of the magazine, from first editing the manuscripts to seeing them set in hot metal and final page proof at the printer 40 miles north, but also (on the rare occasions he was able to escape the clutches of production) a memorably good writer himself.

While researching his first major feature for Flight, Bren was shot off the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in a Blackburn Buccaneer twinjet strike aircraft. The article (which Britain’s Official Secrets Act demanded be vetted by the MoD before publication) got well and truly bogged down with the censors. Brendan and JMR had to fight for virtually every word of what, fortunately, remained a superb piece of research, writing and story-telling.

Brendan hoisted the bar of editorial excellence to new highs that exceeded even JMR’s already lofty standards. Brendan’s bullfluff filter caught weasel words and grammatical transgressions that all of us who thought we knew how to write had thus far deemed acceptable. Pretty soon we caught on that Brendan’s way was the only way, and our writing improved vastly for it. “Uttar Pradesh,” he would bellow when presented with a manuscript containing some foggy explanation or dodgy assertion, camouflaging his message of “utter rubbish” by widening our knowledge of the geography of Northern India. Brendan simply reveled in absorbing the English vocabulary and putting it to its fullest use at each opportunity every day, whether at his desk or in the Rose & Crown after hours.

By osmosis, Flight’s editorial staff became imbued with Brendan’s vast talent at language and communication and carried it far and wide as they moved on and through the industry. In my case, I took it across the pond in 1979 when I joined Flying Magazine in New York City, and then in 1995 to this publishing house, built by Jim Holahan and Wilson Leach, aka AIN Publications. Other Flight alumni took Brendan’s expertise to Interavia in Switzerland, Jane’s and the McGraw Hill/Aviation Week stable, among others.

Brendan is survived by his wife, Veronica, daughters Meg and Ellen, son Ciaran and brothers Martin and Robert. Farewell, dear friend.

By the bye, how was your reception at St. Peter’s Gate? I’m thinking the conversation went something like this: “Ah, Brendan, come in, come in. We’ve been waiting for you. The language up here has been going to h… (well, I won’t say where) and it’s only getting worse with the spread of the Internet and social media. Do come in… Over here we have some of our most needy. These poor blighters can communicate only in assemblages of letters like LOL, LMAO, WTF and by saying ‘like’ over and over and over… See what you can do for them. It’s really quite pathetic I’m afraid.”