The Liberty Gazette
April 21, 2009
April 21, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Usually when we ask about someone’s flying adventures we hear about a great flight to some favorite destination. But Katie Jarrett’s first response was, “The first time I wrecked an airplane.” Turns out, it was her dad’s Luscombe.
“You know,” she started, “it’s an entirely different matter to say, ‘Dad, I wrecked the car,’ than to say, ‘Dad, I wrecked the airplane.’”
She was a 40-hour pilot, flying her first solo cross-country flight, from LaPorte to Palacious. “Back then, the Palacious Airport was a really run-down place. I flew over it, but it looked so bad I wasn’t sure it hadn’t been abandoned. It was still on the charts and there weren’t any X’s painted on the runway, but it really looked that bad.”
Deciding not to land there, she flew on to Bay City instead. Well, almost. There’s just one little problem. On the Luscombes, sometimes the tank switch gets stuck. It’s inspected annually, and this one was in compliance, but it was beginning to stick.
Katie knew she could get to Bay City using both tanks, but it was beginning to look like she wouldn’t have the luxury of two tanks. The switch was stuck, no matter how hard she tried.
Somewhere between Palacious and Bay City, finding a place to land became the priority. “I was fiddling with the switch, still trying to get it flipped on when I recalled the Eastern Airlines accident into the Everglades in Florida. Those pilots were focused on one little light and never saw what was happening. That accident was preventable, and not to learn from it would be even worse. I had to pay attention, and first, fly the airplane.”
Katie took her focus from the stuck switch to finding a place to put the airplane down safely. “I saw a grass farm. You’d think a grass farm would be soft, right? Well, its not. It’s bumpy. But I made it.”
Linda: Katie’s been around aviation all her life, rode with her dad on the airlines, and has spent many hours in the air. The gal knows a thing or two about aviation. She bought the Luscombe from her dad, and shortly after moving to Houston with husband, Rob, who flies an Apache for the National Guard, Katie went in search of a hangar.
She flew up to Porter one day and upon landing saw a man in a suit watching a Baron take off. She asked the well-dressed man who to talk to about hangar space. “I guess that’d be me,” came the reply.
He showed her around the hangars and they talked for a couple of hours, as aviators do, when her host said, “I need to get someone in here soon to answer the phones, talk to the pilots, and stuff.” Not missing a beat, Katie responded, “I can do that,” but, with one caveat: she keeps her grandchildren a few days a week. But they are around airplanes all the time and come from an aviation family. The suit was fine with that. After all, it is his airport. Katie went home and told her husband, “I think I got a job today.”
The couple moved to New Caney, and Katie loves her work. “The job is great, and I got a hangar out of the deal!”
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.