formerly "The View From Up Here"

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

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

November 29, 2016 Where's Liberty's Heart?

The Liberty Gazette
November 29, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

While pumping gas in my nondescript sedan an old green pickup truck drove by. Not just old, but beautifully restored, a classic Ford that caught the eye of most everyone filling their tanks, all of us watching it as it turned the corner. To me, the sign on the side of the truck held even more significance: Dunham Field. That’s an airport in Crosby, privately owned but open to the public. It doesn’t boast long paved runways, but does offer fuel, and aircraft hangars in an area where they are in short supply. Few people other than the locals and some of the pilots based there would know of its existence except for that truck, the airport’s small budget marketing tool.

Marketing is important for any business, public or private. Good airport managers know fuel prices are the tip of the iceberg when attracting business, and good service keeps customers coming back. Many choose a marketing strategy through social media, continuously getting their airport out there in front of the public with information updates and interesting trivia.

We selected our fuel stop on the way to an air race in South Carolina because Kim Scarbrough, the conspicuously pro-active airport manager for Clarke County Airport in Quitman, Mississippi, heavily markets the airport among the flying community. Kim asks for a photo shoot of visitors with their plane and posts the photos on the airport’s Facebook page and on the airport Wall of Fame in the terminal.

Clarke County Airport does not offer self-service fuel pumps, rather, it is assisted service, and prices are competitive so pilots will detour a bit to save a few dollars. Normal business hours end at 5:00 pm but since Kim and her family live on airport property, as Jose and Debbie Doblado did here in Liberty, with few exceptions they can accommodate later flyers. We called ahead when we left South Carolina, knowing we’d be later than 5:00 and were met by Kim’s husband Tim, with a pleasant conversation as he helped us fuel.

Another airport we frequent is Benson Municipal Airport in Arizona. Roy Jones has a different way of making an impression. He, too, lives on airport property and provides the fueling services, but Roy gives discounts if you share a clean joke, something he isn’t afraid to tell around his five children. He takes a personal interest in each person who passes through and makes every attempt to meet their needs.

We wrote recently about Garth Baker, the manager of the Jerome County Airport in Idaho, who, similarly to Kim Scarbrough, provides a friendly face and lends a hand not only when people land at the airport, but promotes the airport with such class that aviators naturally want to stop in and meet him.

The right marketing attracts the attention of the flying public, reaching the goals and fulfilling the purpose of having an airport - a community asset that serves its own by being part of the pulse of life, bringing people, goods, and services to and from the community. For that reason, the face of the airport, the person who greets pilots and passengers, is the heartbeat of the community’s front door. Jose and Debbie were that heartbeat here in Liberty. Note the above examples are small community airports with small budgets. It’s past time for Liberty to bring heart back to the community, and put the welcome mat out again.

November 22, 2016 Timeless Tech

The Liberty Gazette
November 22, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

As a diversion after the end of air racing season Mike and I drove to the George R. Brown Convention Center to check out the Houston Mini Maker Faire. Lots of airplanes are amateur-built from plans or kits; we were curious - would there be any airplane companies represented?

To our surprise not all the booths were filled, and the crowd was fairly light. Granted, we went after church on a Sunday, but seeing several empty booths was disappointing. Would people rather be glued to their electronic devices, not exercising creative brain juices? Was the weather just so great that everyone was outside instead? Had most people already visited this Maker Faire during previous exhibitions? Whatever the reason or reasons, what we found was an overwhelming majority of the booths representing drone makers and 3-D printing manufacturers. They were there in abundance, with a few laser wood cutters and creative activities for kids.

No airplanes though.

Indoor drone racing through an obstacle course using virtual reality 3-D goggles attracted a small crowd of curious gamers. We couldn't help but shudder at the thought of one of those little metal insects straying into airport airspace and impacting an airplane, so we visited with some of the representatives selling their products. The good news is that all with whom we spoke were adamant that the FAA regulations pertaining to drone operation must be followed, but they all agreed that there are people "out there" who violate safety regulations and pose a threat to others.

On a more palatable note, the more pilot-friendly 3-D printing industry is fast-growing with fascinating products being made - even pizza!

Best of all, we ran in to our friend Lance Borden, owner of Borden Radio Company.

Mike: Lance is a fellow pilot and aircraft mechanic with the advanced FAA Inspector Authorization. He's specialized in avionics, having learned a great deal during his time in Laos during the Vietnam War, and afterward in working in avionics shops, Boeing, and NASA.

His radio business is booming, too, and his grandchildren help as production assistants.

Borden Radio Company sells vintage radio kits all over the globe, and schools, families, and organizations choose from a list of kits to build their own radios - from crystal radios, and “GI razor blade” models used in foxholes during WWII, to devices that will pick up several AM and Short Wave radio stations from far away, to tuners, antennae and amplifiers. Lance will even restore your antique radio.

His grandfather was an airplane designer and builder, and with the wealth of history standing there in that one booth, in this one man, I thought about the contrast to every other exhibitor and all the latest high-tech gadgets around the exhibit hall. Here was tech restored, reliable, educational, and valuable – timeless.

We picked up two kits for the two family sets of grand kids. Some of them are old enough now to read the directions and build these radios. You can order kits at

Linda: The 2016 Sport Air Racing League season came to a close in Taylor, Texas a couple of weeks ago, with the Elyminator winning the championship again. “The Fastest Cheetah in the Known Universe” has been good to us, and will get a little rest in the nest – but not for too long. Soon, it will be time for another gypsy trip. We’ll flip a coin and see where the good weather takes us.

November 15, 2016 These boxes change lives

The Liberty Gazette
November 15, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The boxy little airplane banks 45-degree to the right, heading somewhere important, symbolizing so much more than its little airplane self - travel by truck, canoe, even human feet to reach remote villages. Millions of boxes packed with joy and love wing their way to children around the globe.

This is national collection week. It takes little time to pack a shoe box. It takes little money to fill it with items to which you probably never give a second thought. This week you and we can take that little time, spend that little money, and fill a little box with something that will send a message of hope and love. You can even do it online.

Operation Christmas Child shoe box stories will make your heart smile. We’d like to share one in the hope that you will be moved to read more, soaking in the proof that your arms can be His, reaching around the world.

Retold, from Alina was five years old when she received a shoe box, at first confused that someone who didn’t know her would send a gift. There were ponytail holders, a toothbrush, socks, candy, and a pair of plastic princess shoes. She loved pink and says that although the shoes were too big, she wore them and showed them to everyone. In the box was also a photograph of a little girl the same age as Alina.

She was wearing a tiara that matched the shoes I received. Her gift to me became so personal—I felt like I connected with her.

Before I received the shoe box, I was really discouraged because of the way I was treated for my faith in Jesus. A lot of my teachers lowered my grades for no other reason than they didn’t like me. One time, my teacher grabbed my sweater and pushed me against the wall, demanding, “Where is your Jesus now?”

I remember that so vividly. At that moment I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is He? Why is He allowing this to happen?” It felt like God was very distant, very far away from me.

The shoe box was a representation of His love to a five-year-old girl. I no longer felt like Jesus had abandoned me.

The box was an act of kindness that represented hope, comfort, and the fact that God is watching over me. My perception of God changed. He became a personal Father to me.

After I received the shoe box, the persecution I experienced for my faith in Him didn’t stop. But my reaction to it was different because of the way God had revealed Himself to me. No longer did it feel like He was looking down at me from far away—He was walking right beside me.

She writes that 13 years later, she remembers what it was like to receive a shoe box - like God was there, with her gift, and now inspiring her to “tell children, especially orphans, the Good News of Jesus and to help them feel His love.”

Alina and her family came to America and she now volunteers at a collection center that receives what she calls, “a tangible representation of Jesus’ love for me and millions of kids around the world. These boxes change lives.”

First Baptist Church in Dayton is one of the drop zones, and you can find others, along with more stories at

November 8, 2016 A Sculpted Life

The Liberty Gazette
November 8, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

: Raising four boys in Huntsville, Texas in the 1920’s and 30’s while running the only appliance-record store in town must have been both amusing and challenging for Cecil and Marie Adickes: Bob, Bill, David, and Fred - creator of Mattel’s Hot Wheels - each would make their mark.

By age 16 Bob had traded a horse for an Indian (the motorcycle), which he then traded for flying lessons in a Piper Cub at Huntsville Municipal Airport. Bill and David followed, but while David liked flying it was less a passion in him than he witnessed in his older brothers. His aviation path would unfold differently.

When the enlistment obligation came calling Bob chose the Navy, Bill the Marines, David the Army Air Corps, and Fred the Army. Since WWII had ended there wasn’t much for a Naval Aviator to do, and upon hearing that marriage was the ticket to an honorable discharge, Mrs. Adickes drove Bob’s sweetheart from Huntsville to Pensacola so the couple could to claim that ticket.

About that time the airlines were looking for pilots, some to “fly the line,” some to fulfill government contracts flying military brass. Bill went to United Airlines, and Bob signed up with TWA to transport high level officials.

Along came David, finishing boot camp and ready for assignment when the orders came down from General Hap Arnold to start him out typing discharge papers - brother Bob always did make good use of his time with his passengers, and taking care of his little brother was important to him.

Eventually David left the typewriter and boarded a Douglas C-54 Skymaster as crew photographer. At this impressionable age he began to see the world.

Flights to Paris invited the entrepreneur in him to gather up cigarette cartons for a dollar in the U.S. and sell them to Parisians at a 10-times profit. On the return he found French perfume commanded a high price here in the States. Other hot commodities, such as hosiery, made their way to his duffel bag as he traveled and learned the art of business.

But falling in love with Paris and its art scene, he also learned the business of art.

Well known for his sculptures - Sam Houston in Huntsville, the Presidents along I-10 in Houston, the Beatles, the “We Love Houston” piece, the cello downtown at Lyric Center, and soon a new Sam Houston on horseback in Baytown - its his paintings that led me to visit with him at his home in Houston.

He’s purchased his old high school and although he’s making it a museum for his art, what spurred him to buy it was to preserve a beloved piece of his past.

“That gymnasium is where we learned to Jitterbug,” he grins with sparkly eyes. “And that was a good time. When we put up walls and lights for hanging the paintings, I plugged the cord into the same outlet where the record player had been plugged in, playing our music when we learned to dance.”

“Liberty,” he repeated thoughtfully. “That’s a long drive for you to come to Houston. But, at least you’re on a nickel.”

It took me a second.

“You know? And you’re in the Declaration of Independence. It doesn’t say ‘life, Huntsville, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And Patrick Henry never said, ‘Give me Huntsville or give me death!’”

Indeed, David, Liberty has that over Huntsville, but you won’t often hear me say, “I’m glad you chose not to pursue flying.”

November 1, 2016 The Road to Nome

The Liberty Gazette
November 1, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

We had just arrived at our hangar on this perfect October day, when across the ramp the small camouflage-colored two-seat high-wing tailwheel airplane caught my eye as the pilot rolled up in front of his hangar and shut down. I hadn’t seen that plane there before and walked over to introduce myself.

As we shook hands I peered through the windows and spied camping gear in the rear seat. There was only one place he could have been this weekend - Reklaw, Texas (that’s Walker spelled backward), the huge annual fly-in where, when weather cooperates, about 600 airplanes descend on a 4,000’ grass strip, people camp out, fly-bys happen, and aviation camaraderie rules.

I could have won “name that accent in one note.” It happens to be my favorite accent of all. Cajuns tend to get excited when telling stories and have unique whole body expressions to match their wonderful speech. I could listen all day.

Dave’s a welder by trade. His work ethic and skill make him in high demand. One day while cutting pipe, he asked his helper to secure a jack stand to the pipe so he could remove the one he was getting closer to as he cut. If they worked it right the addition of a third jack stand would allow for removal of the first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fully secured and his gloved hand was pinned between the stand and the pipe. Yanking it free with the other hand, he knew he’d need medical attention quickly. The emergency room doctor and nurses examined his mangled hand and sewed it up.

Off work for a few weeks, this was the perfect time for Dave and his wife to take that vacation he’d wanted to take for so long, to Nome, Alaska, where they could really get away from it all.

They drove from their home in New Iberia, through Canada, into Alaska. Stopping in Fairbanks at a NAPA Auto Parts for oil and filter he asked, “Where’s the road to Nome?”

“The guy behind the counter looked at me like I must be the most stupid person in the whole world,” he tells with genuine Cajun pizazz. “Then he says, ‘You got to go by plane. Or, you can wait till the snow comes and go by dog sled.’” (Shameful pause) “‘There’s no road to Nome.’”

That was the pivotal moment when Dave said, “Well then, I got to learn how to fly.”

Linda: Back in Louisiana, at age 39, he began learning something he’d never considered, and earned his private pilot certificate in just three months. With meticulous, thoughtful research Dave decided on exactly the plane he wanted, saved his money, and 11 years after driving to Alaska flew his military-themed Super Cub to “The Last Frontier” and for 34 days explored its vast beauty. A fellow member of SuperCub.orgcreated a web thread for members to follow Dave’s journey. Equipped with a Spot Tracker and two cell phones - one U.S., one Canada - Cajun Dave’s adventures quickly drew more than 10,000 followers across the globe.

“It was the most amazing thing I learned about the aviation community,” he tells in Louisiana-style animation and word emphasis, “that every single day people would call me and say they were following my Spot Tracker and saw I was headed in their direction, and they’d invite me to come eat and stay the night at their house. It was like family everywhere I went!”

An injured hand and no road to Nome led to becoming a member of the family of aviators. I could have listened to Dave all day. Turns out, we did. 

October 25, 2016 No Clowning Around

The Liberty Gazette
October 25, 2016
Ely Air Lines 
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Dad taught me when I was about four how to remember the name of the first Indianapolis 500 mile race winner, Ray Harroun. “His name sounds like a race car engine,” he said as he demonstrated in his throaty voice, “Ha-rroon!

Ray won Indy the same year KLM Royal Dutch Airlines began. Town & Country was a popular New York periodical then. Paging through an old edition of Town & Country I see: an ad for Pears soap, a pleading to give to the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and a blurb on the community calendar for a golf tournament to be held at the Idlewild Country Club.

But this issue, August 12, 1911, is mostly devoted to aviation, with a sharp focus on aviation “meets”. No name claims authorship to the editorial column, “Notes of the Week”, so I am inclined to think they are the pronouncements of editor H. J. Whigham.

Maybe, maybe not, these were Whigham’s searing words urging - no, demanding attention to the upcoming, historically important Chicago Air Meet that would make the U.S. a more serious contender in aviation innovation - the shameful days of aerial circus tricks which the author thought a waste must soon be over.

My musings on 1911: We had just signed our first reciprocal trade agreement with Canada. There’s a revolution going on in Mexico, and uprisings in China against the Manchu dynasty. Europe is posing for war, while John Sibelius conducts the premiere of his Symphony No. 4 in Helsinki - the one he said, “stands as a protest against present-day music. It has absolutely nothing of the circus about it.”

For some reason it seems people were anti-circus.

Chevrolet is incorporated, IBM founded, and the Mona Lisa stolen and recovered within a day. A postage stamp was two cents, and women around the world were still fighting for the right to vote.

Air meets were all the craze, and San Francisco hosted its first one to start the year right, followed by the first U.S. airplane bombing experiments (Italy had already flexed its muscle being the first to use an airplane as an offensive weapon, defeating the Turks and annexing Libya). The first photo taken from an airplane in the U.S. was snapped over San Diego at the start of 1911. The gifted civilian pilot Eugene Ely was first to land an airplane on a ship.

It was the year Ronald Reagan was born, and sadly, Eugene Ely died. John F. Kennedy would be born just six years later.

A little irony noted: That blurb for a golf tournament was on the calendar in this aviation-dedicated issue. The next generation would not play such a tournament at Idlewild Country Club, for 31 years later a new airport would be built on top of it.

With a show of respect to the displaced golf course, the new reliever for LaGuardia was christened Idlewild Airport, a name that lasted 21 years, until a significant event happened in America in 1963, resulting in Idlewild Airport being renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Indy 500, KLM, Pears soap, Town & Country and JFK Airport are all going strong, the poor are still with us, and I don’t golf, but I do remember who won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 18, 2016 Volcanic inspiration

The Liberty Gazette
October 18, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: What do two pilots do when visiting a new place? Find the airports, of course, and meet other pilots which leads to great conversation because the small world of aviation gives us a special connection no matter where in the world we are.

Iceland’s main airline airport is in Keflavik and considered one of the most important emergency alternate landing airports for planes crossing the North Atlantic. When the volcano Eyjafjallaj√∂kull erupted in 2010 aircraft all over Europe were grounded, but depending on the winds planes could still land at Keflavik or another major airport in the northern part of Iceland, Acureyri.

Icelandair has named all 28 aircraft in it’s fleet after Icelandic volcanoes. We were aboard Askja, named after a volcano in the highlands, just a bit northeast of the center of the country. Askja last erupted on Mike’s birthday in 1961. The area it’s in was used by astronauts during training for the Apollo program to study geology in preparation for the lunar missions.

We noticed a few other interesting facts and made some comparisons. About the size of Kentucky in land mass, Iceland’s population is only about 325,000, yet there are 33 public airports, making the people-to-airport ratio about 9850:1. About 27 million people live in Texas and our state has nearly 400 airports - a 67,500:1 ratio. Interesting stat, because Texas has a lot of airports compared to other U.S. states.

Mike: Mountainous Iceland is in an active volcanic zone, the highest point there is 6,920’ above sea level. Even though Guadalupe Peak in west Texas towers at 8,751’ much of the land mass here is pretty flat. Icelandic mountains stretch out into the seas like long fingers - the fjords are glaciated valleys of water between elongated mountainous land masses, and driving Ring Road around the country includes winding around these fjords. In some places wind was blocked by mountains, and in other places our little rental car rocked through strong wind streams.

This sub-polar climate makes coastal temperatures less reactive to seasonal changes than you might think, being that it’s called Iceland, but the wind can be strong in some areas. The Tundra climate zone is where to find interior highlands and icecaps.

Three huge glaciers feed the country’s 31 named and countless unnamed waterfalls. Rounding the curves along Ring Road offers plenty of surprises, another waterfall, more spectacular than the one we just passed.

At Thingvellir National Park we stood in a rift valley with one foot on the North American and one foot on the Eurasian tectonic plates, less than a league from the Althingi, Iceland’s - and the world’s - first parliament, established in 930 A.D. Sessions were held here until 1798.

The geology of the area is fascinating where up-thrust volcanic rocks are in constant flux as the tectonic plates collide, and cascading waterfalls feed rivers.

Walking the trails and crossing several foot bridges, we looked down into crystal clear water at 20-pound brown trout as they got stuck and then unstuck from the shallow bottom trying to swim upstream. The rivers flow into Thingvallavatn, the country’s largest natural lake, where people come from all over the world to go diving in the abyss known as Silfra, a large fissure between the two tectonic plates. The water is known for its purity and extreme clearness. One dive company advertisement likens it to “liquid meditation Iceland-Style.”