formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

To get your copy of "Ely Air Lines: Select Stories from 10 Years of a Weekly Column" volumes 1 and 2, visit our website at http://paperairplanepublishing.com/publications

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March 2, 2021 Snow-blown tales

The Liberty Gazette
March 2, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: The recent ice storm was not entirely a surprise to me. Since moving here, I’ve noticed that whenever a hurricane hits nearby, the following winter we get at least a little snow.

The fun part was watching neighborhood kids trying to have snowball fights and skidding along the ice-covered streets, possibly for the first time. It brought back memories of some icy flights I’ve made.  

Once, while on approach to an airport in Pasco, Washington, the air traffic controller gave us a clearance to land while advising, “Only half of the runway is plowed.” The captain and I each raised an eyebrow. Which half of the runway was still covered in snow? The first half? The last? I radioed, “Okay, do you want to inform us as to which half is plowed?” 

With a chuckle, the controller replied, “Oh yeah, I guess that’d be important. The southeast side, the left half.” Meaning we had the full seven-thousand-foot of length to land on, but instead of a 150-foot-wide swath of asphalt, it was now only about 75 feet, with snow piled along both sides. The Learjet’s wingspan was forty feet.

Closer in on the approach, we were able to see the difference in the hue of gray defining the cleared side. After the captain plopped down hard on the crusty-icy surface, he slowed the airplane down well before the end of the runway, which was the only opening in the berm of snow. At five degrees and still snowing heavily, the powdery stuff covered the taxiway. We had to use the taxiway lights sticking up out of it as a guide to stay on the pavement while we taxied to parking. The nose bounced up and down and snow puffs “splashed” off to the side as we crashed through drifts. It felt more like a power boat than a jet.

Years later, I flew a charter out of south Florida after a major blizzard hit the northeast. Our passenger needed to get to a cancer treatment center in Baltimore for surgery, but all the airports around Washington were closed under a heavy blanket of snow. We watched the weather for a window that would allow us to get into an airport in the area. Anticipating one such opportunity, we departed from Fort Lauderdale for Washington Dulles International while arrangements for special ground transport were being made to get our passenger to Baltimore.

The airport opened, but with only one runway cleared. We came out of the clouds a couple miles from the airport in near whiteout conditions. A bright orange Southwest airliner that stood out from the white and gray environment was the only way we could identify it as an airport. We couldn’t even make out the runway, still covered in ice and patchy snow, until we were a half mile from it. The passenger made it to the hospital, and from what I learned later, the operation was a success. 

See you next week with a few more snow-blown tales.  

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

February 23, 2021 Space Haggis

The Liberty Gazette
February 23, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Last year, in honor of my Scottish ancestry, we flew to Chicago for one of the biggest Burns Suppers in the U.S. This is an annual event that celebrates the birthdate of Scottish poet Robert Burns. It’s the same every January 25, everywhere around the world. This year, however, health fears prevented the gathering, so instead, I and millions of others around the globe celebrated online. 

There were some fantastic presentations, including special productions from Edinburgh and Ayr in Scotland. All, of course, included haggis. Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, and at every Burns Supper, a haggis is paraded into the dining hall with great bagpipe fanfare and presented to the crowd, while someone recites Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis.” Haggis is sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach. However, one can find vegetarian haggis in a can at Spec’s in downtown Houston, in the “finer foods” section. 

This year, there was something special about one celebration that was not just out of the box, but out of the atmosphere. Starting early, on Friday, January 22, “the Scottish Butcher,” Simon Howie, launched the first ever haggis into space. Mr. Howie’s plan to promote his prepared product, which Scots can buy at any grocery store, was out-of-this-world-fun. His packaged haggis soared over 20 miles (107,293 feet) above the earth. That beats the world’s highest Burns Supper he hosted on the top of Kilimanjaro in 2010. It’s four times the height of Mt. Everest and 2.5 times higher than most jets fly. It’s the edge of space. 

Visibility on launch day was so good that in the video, at altitude, you can see at least as far as 250 miles away. Their media team reported that when the balloon burst, Simon’s haggis was safely transported back to the company’s Perthshire headquarters. Actually, it’s more like it fell to Earth at nearly 200 miles an hour before the parachute took over, surely making it as well the fastest haggis ever. They say it will be preserved for years to come, as the first haggis in space. Search “space haggis” on YouTube to find the video. Or just go to thescottishbutcher.com/spacehaggis

https://thescottishbutcher.com/spacehaggis/

Aside from creative marketing, Simon Howie hopes to spark intergalactic and scientific interest in young people. In partnership with Stratonauts, they will, once gathering restrictions are lifted, run workshops in local primary schools to encourage more kids into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related careers. Stratonauts is a private organization that works to inspire students to become pioneers of the future.

Their record-breaking haggis made the flight in 2 hours and 37 minutes. The temperature got down to -60C, and the wind got up to 150.30 mph. This was done with a weather balloon, which expands as it rises. At its highest altitude, the balloon reached 10 meters in diameter. After that, it was a quick trip down. Robbie Burns would probably amend his address if he knew about this. 

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

February 16, 2021 Aerial Mapping

The Liberty Gazette
February 16, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Our story last week was about an archeological discovery from the Iron Age, spotted in an aerial photograph. Aerial mapping has become big business. Just a week or so ago, standing outside in the front lawn, I heard an airplane and naturally, I looked up. Overhead was a Cessna Caravan making precise circles. At first, I thought the large single-engine turboprop might be a jump plane from one of Houston’s parachute centers. Then I saw a large hole in the bottom of the plane’s body. That, I knew, was for taking pictures. The airplane was mapping Liberty. 

In 2001, Google began stitching high-definition satellite photos together to create their Google Earth software program. Other companies have followed. In 2012, Google added to their universe as they began 3-D modeling of select cities.

The way it works is, a camera mounted on the airplane takes pictures of an area from four or more sides. Tilted at a 45-degree angle, it takes a series of pictures at one altitude, then the airplane climbs to a higher altitude where more images are captured. With each increase in altitude, the airplane circles at a calculated wider path, so the camera position has the same view as at the previous altitude. The photo frames are connected using algorithms and fed into Google Earth, making a three-dimensional view available from the highest altitude the aircraft took the pictures. When the screen is zoomed out to an altitude above that, the format reverts to a 2-D satellite view.

Arial photography has been around since long before satellites. Airplanes make mountain-top views available everywhere, even where no mountains exist. With their lenses pointed straight down from the airplane’s belly, the early images produced were two-dimensional; flat. Over time, the airplanes flew higher, and the cameras got better. Hundreds of pictures were taken from high-flying military airplanes flying a grid-pattern over the countryside. 

In the 1930s through the 1950s, cartographers used these photos to create topographical maps and aeronautical charts. Curved and wavy lines on the maps illustrate elevation changes, but before mapmakers could draw those, they needed to see the relief—the steepness of the terrain. The cartographer would then view the pictures through a stereoscope device to see the land in three dimensions while drawing the maps. The elevations were verified by ground survey at specific points. 

The cameras aboard Air Force spy planes take high-resolution pictures so we can learn what adversaries may be planning. They say pictures taken from the cameras aboard the SR-71 and U-2 are so clear, that even taken from 70,000 feet, you can tell the time on someone’s watch.

Though major cities were the first to be mapped, the effort has expanded regionally over time. Eventually, the whole United States, and maybe someday the world, will be available for viewing on our computers in three dimensions.  Today, the world is shrinking as cameras are coupled with GPS and are mounted in airplanes flown by pilots who fly precise circles overhead. 

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

February 9, 2021 Ancient Discoveries from the Air

The Liberty Gazette
February 9, 2021
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Time Team was a wildly popular series that aired for 16 seasons, beginning in 1994. Hosted by British actor Tony Robinson, a team of archeologists has three days to excavate significant historical locations with the hope of finding cool stuff and great stories. Often, aircraft are involved.

Photo: Time Team
In early 2006, a pilot doing aerial surveying flew across the north coast of Wales over the island of Anglesey. The photographer on board spotted something strange about the contours of a field and took a photo which revealed a massive earthwork about the length of two football fields. Until then, says Sir Robinson, “No one knew there was anything there except a few lumps and bumps.”

Some Time Team members thought the bumps and lumps could be from the Roman occupation of 61 AD. But the strange outline in the aerial photo looked similar to two other sites on Anglesey that were found to be earlier than the Roman period. Those were from the middle to late Iron Age (500 BC-332 BC). 

Perhaps the image from the aerial photo represented more than one period in history. If so, then one would likely be Iron Age, and the other sometime later, which would take it right through the time of the Druids, one of history’s most mysterious groups. 

The Roman army arrived on this island to destroy the stronghold British resistance, an insurgency led by the Druids. If the team found Roman relics here, then this could be of one of the bloodiest sites in Welsh history. The Romans massacred the Druids. In fact, the Romans so obliterated them that many people think the Druids were a myth. But there are living Druids in Wales now. Local historians say the Druids were peacemakers. They tend to be artists—musicians and poets. Whatever you’ve read about them, remember that the natives didn’t do the writing. It was the Romans telling the story of who the Druids were.

Photo: Time Team
For three days, the Time Team dug. They worked mainly on the hill because that would be a highly 
likely place to find artifacts. Sure enough, they found a grave from the Bronze Age, 4,000 years old, covered by a heap of stones. From other evidence discovered, the team concluded that there had also been a traditional Iron Age community of thatched roof round houses on top of the hill. These people would have left that earlier burial site alone, respecting it when they built their round houses there. In the Iron Age, this hill would have been a power base for an important chief who had it all, until the Romans arrived. 

Photo: Time Team
That aerial photo gave enough clues for archeologists to pull the curtain back just enough to see a place that tells a story. Signs of the excavation are still visible on Google Earth, at 53°24'19.7"N 4°23'42.8"W.

You never know what mystery you might discover from the air. A view from above can lead to past lives, as Robinson says, now hidden beneath gentle pastures.


ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

February 2, 2021 Airborne Canvases

The Liberty Gazette
February 2, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: If the world ever opens up again and international travel resumes, be on the lookout for the coolest paint schemes on airliners. Alaska Airlines may still be sporting the characters from “Incredibles 2.” And look for the scene from “The Lord of the Rings” gracing Air New Zealand. One of WestJet’s planes carries Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from “Frozen” (out of 170 gallons of specialized aircraft paint) way up into cold altitudes. Speaking of cold, one of Iceland Air’s Boeing 757s sports a Northern Lights theme. And who could forget the beloved Shamu on Southwest Airlines? 

While we didn’t go to the expense of contracting with a major motion picture studio when we painted the Elyminator, considerable thought, design, and prep work went into our red and black-and-white checkered racing theme. 

Normally, aircraft paint shops remove old paint with chemical stripper before applying new coats. But Grummans are a bit different. Models like ours have bonded (glued) surfaces. Fewer rivet heads mean less drag and better performance. However, paint stripper could dissolve the bonding, so, we don’t use it. That means removal happens by hand sanding. It’s sanded wet, so the paint does not become dust, and that’s a lot of work. 

There’s also quite a process involved. Over the summer in 2011, we meticulously sanded the entire airplane, per our manufacturer’s maintenance manual. Wrapped in disposable paint overalls and masks, we got quite toasty during the July and August afternoons in the hangar that faced west. It took about 100 (wo)man-hours to sand it all.

Mike: Designing the paint scheme was the fun part. Linda wanted that racing look (plus the slightly sarcastic question on the belly, “Stuck In Traffic?”). I took the drawings for the airplane from the flight manual and created different designs and tried out various colors. With the final artwork in hand, we took it to a paint shop. Control surfaces (elevator, flaps) had to be removed to be painted, then balanced and reinstalled, requiring an FAA-certified airplane mechanic.

Unique paint schemes take time to create and apply, but eye-catching airplanes don’t fly different than others. Except maybe the 727 designed by Alexander Calder for Braniff for the 200th birthday of the United States of America. That airborne canvas was christened by Braniff, “Flying Colors of the United States,” but the crews who flew it called it “Sneaky Snake” because it had trim problems, which required them to hand-fly it a lot. Also, shortly before his death in 1976, artist Calder painted a little squiggly snake on an engine nacelle. 

Wet paint, of course, weighs more than dry paint. The number of layers is also a consideration for both the design and weight. The paint that goes onto our size airplane can weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. The paint that goes onto something like a Boeing 747, once it dries, would add between 500 to 550 pounds. But since that airplane weighs in at nearly a million pounds, I think it can handle it. 

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

January 26, 2021 Bridges, Fortresses, and Flat Tires

The Liberty Gazette
January 26, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Another beautiful weekend, another lazy flight, just to get out. The day offered an unlimited ceiling, and it seemed a perfect time to stroll above the beach and take in the view of the waves
splashing up to the sand, the people as little as play figures and their toy cars and trucks. We’d head west past the Intercoastal Waterway, past Seafood Warehouse, the fly-in restaurant on Crystal Beach. Past the bridge under construction near Matagorda. The corkscrew replacement for the old Sargent swing bridge is a real eye-catcher from the air. You can see a cool video on this unique piece of engineering on YouTube. 

To our left, oil derricks working in the Gulf, probably their last few pumps, as they will soon be more victims of censorship, silenced by the corrupt, anti-American devils, and all the energy jobs will soon be gone as well. 2024 is too far away. 

Mike: Meanwhile, we have our wings, and God’s air gives them lift. I had rush-packed a picnic lunch. We tossed the bikes with new cushy seats back into the airplane and entered the Aransas Pass airport into the GPS as the destination. If you know where to look, it’s not hard to find. The runway is on the west side of the town. With prevailing winds from the south, take-offs and landings are usually toward the water, providing a scenic climb-out over the beach. 

The little building that serves as a pilot’s lounge is well-appointed with a dining table and cushiony chairs and sparkling clean restrooms. It’s easy to rent a golf cart at Mustang Beach, too. If you’re not feeling pedestrian, and you don’t have a set of wheels, you can pick from plenty of carts available from local vendors. 

However, since we brought our bikes, the plan was to coast down the beach, through town. Sometimes, though, a little snag can get into the barest of plans one has. Like cycling. My rear tire wouldn’t hold air, and after exhausting all the spare compressed air capsules I had, we put the bikes back in the airplane and set out on foot. With the beach such a short walk, it was no big deal. 

Linda: We picked our spot, opened our thermal lunch pack, and feasted. Over yonder, a big dad held his tiny daughter’s hand as she toddled to the water’s edge. It about covered her feet, but barely touched his big toe. A sweet, young family sat together facing the water, the two little boys working hard on a
spectacular sandcastle. “But we’re not finished yet!” they protested when I asked if I could take a picture. I bet it turned out to be an impressive fortress. 

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

January 19, 2021 What's in a Name?

The Liberty Gazette
January 19, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

What’s in a name? That depends. Your birth certificate may reflect a family name or a compromise of your parents’ preferences. And there are nicknames, some of them affectionate. Those are usually the ones you get from your parents, too. Some are not so affectionate. Those you probably get in school. And there’s a different kind of nickname. In military aviation, it’s a callsign, and for some, there’s a story behind the naming—not always printable, but we did collect a couple we could share. 

Our friend Tom Gallagher was a Naval Aviator. Tom is a tall, strapping young man. Neat, clean, professional, no slouch. He piloted Navy P-3s. He and some friends also had an open mic band on the side and gave themselves ‘80’s rock star stage names. His was “Tommy Günz”. When his squadron found out about it, everyone started calling him Günz. He’s not unhappy about it at all. It could have been worse. He says, “The best callsigns are the ones that happen organically, but often they give you one right when you get to the squadron, and it’s kind of forced.” In Tom’s case, they tried to name him “Sledge” at first, in reference to the smashing watermelon act of the comedian mononymously known as Gallagher. Fortunately, that moniker didn’t stick. It wouldn’t fit a lean, muscular pilot who plays ukulele on the side.

Tom says callsigns are not as common in the Navy as they are with Air Force jet pilots. Fortunately, we were able to draw out a story from one of them. And a U2 spy plane pilot at that!

Zach Johnson, a close family friend, is #887 of 1,060 U2 pilots to date, since 1955. Rarer than callsigns in the Navy. While on his first deployment, Zach went to set up his Skype account so he could talk with family back home. Not one to use the proverbial first-name-dot-last-name approach, it became a bit frustrating as every username he picked was taken. After many failed attempts, he had an epiphany: “JetJok”. He’s short like a horse jockey, confident like a football jock, and flies jets. It was perfect, and it was available on Skype. Finally, he could communicate with friends and family. 

“Then one day all the guys had these patches on their flight suits that said JetJok,” Zach explains. “Young and naïve, I thought it was cool and asked if I could get one. Little did I know they were all silently snickering at me the whole time. But no one let on it was a joke—yet.”

The next day, as Zach was returning to base in his U2, he radioed back to Dragon Ops. “One hour out, Code One.” He received the weather update as usual, and after a slight pause, he heard a raspy, drawn-out, ‘Jet…Jok’. In that instant, it was all clear, and the greeting at the bottom of the aircraft’s stairs was all smiles and laughs as they welcomed “JetJok” back to earth. 

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

January 12, 2021 Come from Away

The Liberty Gazette
January 12, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Lest anyone think the 21st century has vanquished ridiculous machismo thoughts that some people have about women flying, let me just say, I see the comments daily. Multiple times a day. I’ve heard many personally. But the professionalism of Colonel Nicole Malachowski (also the first female to fly for the U.S. Airforce Thunderbirds demonstration team); U.S. Navy Lt. Commander and Southwest Airlines Captain Tammie Jo Shults (who landed a crippled 737 safely on one engine, after a fan blade failed, causing severe damage to the plane); 19-year old Ashli Blain, flying Blackhawks and Chinooks to fight fires in Montana and other hotspots last summer; American Airlines Captain, Beverley Bass, and others show just how ignorant those comments are. 

I could focus on any one of these ladies, each one a hero, but today, it’s Captain Bass. 

Captain Bass was born a Floridian, but she learned to fly in Texas skies. When looking for her first flying job, she was told women must not fly, because, “what would the wives of the executive passengers think?” But American Airlines knew her value and hired her in 1976, at age 24. 

Mike: We all know what we were doing the morning of September 11, 2001. The first plane, the news, the second plane, the shock, the horror, the anger, the resolve. But all pilots flying in or into the United States at that time couldn’t stand around a television and watch the news. They were being directed to cities not in their flight plan, some in foreign countries. Grounded. And no one knew for how long. 

En route from Paris to Dallas, Captain Bass was one of many pilots grounded in an instant that morning. But a few things set her apart. She was the first female captain American Airlines had ever had. She was responsible for the flight; in charge of the safety of her passengers, crew, and a Boeing 777 on that historic day. She had also been the captain of the first all-female flight crew in history.

Our northern neighbors took in many flights. Captain Bass’s aircraft was one of several ordered to land at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. With a plane load of passengers, and no plans, she and her crew did what they had to do. They got them on the ground safely and waited for news as the local communities stepped up, reached out, and helped with open hearts, open arms. 

Linda: Thanks to the Canadians, the 2016 musical “Come from Away” that features Captain Bass’s flight that day, is still running on Broadway, Toronto, Melbourne, London, Sydney, and on tour. While the character is largely influenced by Captain Bass’s own story, the part is a composite of many pilots who were suddenly grounded after the attacks. But the number, “Me and the Sky” is all her. This woman, one of many who have endured the battles in the war on ignorance, would let nothing come between her and her sky. 

For information on the musical, check out https://comefromaway.com/.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

January 5, 2021 That's Just Beachy

The Liberty Gazette
January 5, 2021
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: On the remote islands of far Northwestern Scotland, there aren’t a great number of airports. But there are a lot of rocks and water. And beaches. Which is where you’ll find the Barra Airport. You can’t miss it – it’s at the beach. (C’mon, it’s the Outer Hebrides. They do everything a bit different there.)

This is the only beach in the world that is used regularly for scheduled flights. They get two flights a day from Glasgow, cutting that journey down from eight hours by ferry and car to one hour by air. 

“Built” in 1936, this beach airport is a vital link for the communities on the isolated Hebridean Islands. It’s a lovely beach, which can be a problem sometimes because some people don’t realize it’s an airport. It is not uncommon for the airport manager or his staff to have to explain to “beach-goers” that they can’t hunt there for pretty seashells. 

In fact, there are three runways. For landing, they are oriented on the compass to 330, 290, and 250 degrees, generally, landing to the west. They are all one way in and one way out, which means you land one way but takeoff in the opposite direction. However, take note that London’s Heathrow Airport only has two runways. Reasons for this include the need for more options with higher island winds at the Isle of Barra (it’s important to land as much into the wind as possible), and that much smaller aircraft land there, as opposed to the “heavies” that frequent Heathrow. Still, it brings a smile to say that London has some catching up to do with the islanders. 

People come from all over the world just to experience landing on a beach (as a passenger). Barra is also one of the most photographed airports in the world, and, it can claim another “most” that isn’t likely to be eclipsed by any other—they say it is the cleanest airport in the world because, after all, it gets washed by the tide twice a day. 

Oh, and the name of the beach? It’s “Big Beach.” I guess originality has its limits.

Scotland’s national airline is Logan Air. When we stopped by their headquarters in Glasgow, unannounced, they were wonderfully welcoming and asked us to come back so we could fly some of
their routes with them. Flying into Barra will be at the top of my list when we go back there.

Mike: The Twin Otter is a perfect airplane to take into the Barra Airport. It has a long fat wing and big fat tires, great for floating along the sand on takeoffs and landings. That Logan Air operates such a unique airplane to such a unique place makes us want to be just like those other passengers that fly in there. However, having logged 800 hours in Twin Otters, I’d like to take a hand at the controls and make one of those big Scottish beach landings myself. 

Happy New Year to all who do not support censorship or Communism.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

December 29, 2020 Alternate Endings

The Liberty Gazette
December 29, 2020
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: We’re almost there. We’re nearing the light at the end of the 2020 tunnel that no one, even with 20/20 vision, could have seen coming (well, except Fauci, Gates, China, you know). Good things have continued to happen for many, but we must not forget the deep pain and grief of others. 

Considering the crazy year, we thought we’d offer some ideas for alternate endings and encourage you to think of your own: write it down, post it on social media, share it with a friend, or stick it on the fridge. You deserve it. You deserve to dream of better. Here are ours. 

Christmas break, camping out in Northern Finland. That’s my alternate ending to 2020. Fly to Helsinki, and from there to Ivalo. Several airlines go there: Finnair, Air France, Nordic Regional, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa. I’ll pick either Finnair or Lufthansa. Finnair because it’s the local, and you should (almost) always fly the local. For instance, in Cambodia, we chose Cambodian Air, not because it’s luxurious, but because that airline’s home is where we were going. Lots of unseen benefits in doing that. Usually of the political kind. Lufthansa is a superb airline, so they are never off the list. 

At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, we have the choice of snow igloo, wood chalet, or an igloo made of thermal glass and steel. I’ll take glass. Think luxury here. Cold outside, but unbelievable views of Northern Lights from a snuggly warm inside. 

The resort boasts celebrity treatment with world-class service, surrounded by nature. It’s in the Saariselkä Fell region of Finnish Lapland. If you’re inclined to tell anyone where you are, there’s free WiFi, but in my alternate ending, I’ll keep that a secret to share later.

The restaurants serve Laplandic specialties such as reindeer and char-grilled salmon, but we’ll request the vegan options in advance. 

There’s a relaxation room with an open fireplace, and a nearby ice hole, in case we need to cool off.

Husky and reindeer safaris can be arranged, and we can go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, rent Nordic walking sticks and snowshoes.

Mike: Not that I wouldn’t enjoy spending time in an igloo—I’ve built them while snow camping in the Sierra Nevada—but I’m thinking of a warmer climate. Say, the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Maldives. This country has about 1,200 coral islands on which to get lost. And they are all accessible by seaplane. 

Not far from the equator, and surrounded by so much water, the year-round temperatures rarely vary from the mid-eighties. We’d airline into Male, the capital, and from there, take one of the 50 DeHavilland Twin Otters on floats to the Conrad Resort on Rangali Island and stay in one of their underwater villas. 

I’m not sure who would think they were in an aquarium, the fish or us. But it’s a unique year-end destination, a long way from the other parts of this crazy world. 

We’re looking forward to a better year!

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com