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Around the world in 35 days

New Jersey dentist raises money, awareness for Alzheimer's disease

January 07, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Map of Dr. Galkin's world tour
Up in the air: Dr. Ed Galkin and his co-pilot, Marty Balk, set off from New Jersey on Oct. 26, 2018, on an around-the-world trip that took them to about a dozen countries, in an effort to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer's research. They returned Nov. 30, 2018.
Edison, N.J. — Dr. Ed Galkin was driving by an airport in early spring 2018 when, he said, he had an epiphany.

I said to myself, "Maybe I can do it again."

By "it," the 82-year-old periodontist and longtime pilot meant flying around the world in a single-engine plane — again. His goal: to raise awareness and money benefitting the Alzheimer's Association. About two years ago, his older brother, Dr. Sam Galkin, an orthodontist, died from complications from the disease.

"It was an awful situation," Dr. Galkin said. "If the money we raise gets us a little closer to finding a cure for this terrible disease, then it would be worth it."

Dr. Galkin and his co-pilot, Marty Balk, set off from New Jersey at 10 a.m. Oct. 26, 2018. Their plane, a Cessna 210 Centurion that Dr. Galkin bought in 1977, would take them eastward across the Atlantic Ocean over  the South Pacific and back to the U.S., visiting over a dozen locations, including Cyprus, Bangkok, Fiji and Hawaii. The duo returned at 11 p.m. Nov. 30, after a 16-hour flight from San Jose, California, and a refueling stop in Oklahoma.

Photo of the view above St. John
Leaving North America: Dr. Ed Galkin takes a photo from his Cessna 210 Centurion after departing St. John's to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
"No matter where we went or who we spoke with, many told us about friends and family who were affected by Alzheimer's," Dr. Galkin said. "Until this trip, I didn't realize how significant it was worldwide."

His fundraising campaign continues today in the hopes of raising more than $25,000 for the association.

From dental school to flight school

Dr. Galkin said he has always wanted to fly planes since he was 9 years old. When he was 6 or 7, he said, his father would take the family to Newark Liberty International Airport to watch planes arrive and depart.

"This was in the 1940s," he said. "We would spend a half a day watching the planes take off and land. From there, planes just became a significant part of my life."

A 1961 graduate of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Galkin would serve two years as a captain in the United States Army Dental Corps. After, he attended New York University to study periodontology. He opened his practice in New Jersey in 1965.

It wasn't until 1970 that he finally started taking flying lessons and received his pilot's license. By the end of the 1980s, he had flown his Cessna 210 to take his family to the United Kingdom, traveled to Australia and completed his first flight around the world. He would circumnavigate the world again in 2004, with stops in Peru, Easter Island, Tahiti, South Africa and Trinidad.

When in 2018 he decided to fly around the world for a third time, he found only support from his colleagues, patients and his wife, who also holds a pilot's license.

"She basically said, 'You look good, you feel well, your plane is maintained very well, I'm comfortable with you doing it. And if that's your desire then I'll be as supportive as I can,'" Dr. Galkin said.

Easiest of the three

On the flight from Cyprus to Abu Dhabi, the two pilots experienced some mechanical failure. About three hours prior to landing, their primary electrical power system failed and had to rely on their backup system.

"It really wasn't a big concern and the flight was never in doubt," he said, adding that after landing in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, they determined the alternator was the problem and they ordered a new one with a two-day delivery.

Photo of Dr. Galkin's plane
Repair: Marty Balk, Dr. Ed Galkin's co-pilot, installs a new alternator on the Cessna 210 Centurion in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
"The biggest challenge that we had was securing enough aviation fuel in the second half of the trip," Dr. Galkin said.

The duo originally had planned to head home via Vietnam, Japan and Alaska. But weather concerns in the Bering Strait, especially in November, forced them to set course for the South Pacific instead, making stops in Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, Christmas Island and Hawaii.

Otherwise, Dr. Galkin said, this around-the-world trip was the easiest of his three. It was his co-pilot's first.

"Of my three trips around the world, this was the smoothest," Dr. Galkin said.

Not done yet

What made it easy was working with Skyplan, a flight planning service based in Calgary, Canada. Skyplan provided support on securing landing and overflight permits, fuel availability, weather briefing, etc. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer's Association oversaw the fundraiser, helping Dr. Galkin set up a donation website.

After landing, the two pilots discovered that everyone who greeted them — from the landing crew and custom agents to hotel staff — knew of their trip around the world to help raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's.

Photo of Dr. Galkin with ground crew
Welcome: Dr. Ed Galkin, center, poses for a photo with the ground handling crew after arriving in Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov. 13, 2018. The crew had heard about Dr. Galkin's mission to raise awareness and money for the Alzheimer's Association.
"I probably gave away about 700 business cards all around the world asking people to donate to the Alzheimer's Association or asking people to donate to their local nonprofit," Dr. Galkin said. "I learned from so many people about how this disease has affected them."

Throughout the trip, Dr. Galkin and Mr. Balk stayed at least two nights at each stop to experience the culture and enjoy the local cuisine. Today Dr. Galkin said he plans to continue his fundraising efforts. He has since been invited to give lectures about his trip.

Although at 82 years old, Dr. Galkin said he's not done yet.

"This one went so well that I'd like to do another fundraiser for another nonprofit, something that's near and dear to my heart," he said. "I'm certainly not done flying. I think I have at least one more flight around the world in me.

Visit aroundtheworldagain3.com to read more about Dr. Galkin's trip around the world or to donate.