The Liberty Gazette
April 8, 2008
April 8, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: Last week we talked about aerobatics, one of my favorite subjects. Many top-rated aerobatic pilots live around the Houston area, including three multi-award-winning women, Joy Bowdin, Debby Gary, and Debbie Rihn-Harvey. Where ever I end up going for aerobatic training, each of these women will be an inspiration. But aerobatic flying is just one niche of many in aviation. Recreation, show performance, sport competition, transportation, shipping, medical, search and rescue, agricultural, military, government operations, business, and many other areas of aviation touch most every person one way or another, and provide unique opportunities for careers.
Mike: While Linda was flip-flopping end-over-end in an Extra 300 (at Fighter Combat in Arizona), I was cruising along at 500 mph, 43,000 feet over the Caribbean, returning to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida from Caracas, Venezuela. Over a five-year period before Linda and I met, I criss-crossed the same stretch of sea on over 70 similar trips as chief pilot for a Miami corporation. Normally, our route out of South Florida took us east over the Bahamas, then southeast over Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Aruba, and finally to Venezuela. Sometimes we stopped in the Bahamas, Barbados and St. Maarten along the way, and on one trip we launched from Florida as Hurricane Jeanne approached. Detouring around the Category 3 storm, we crossed over Cuba and the Cayman Islands to reach Venezuela.
Although a frequent destination, landing in Caracas was interesting. Our company had a special permit that allowed us to land at a military base in the middle of the city. It was a lot like finding a postage stamp in the middle of a box of blocks. Miranda Air Base, locally known as La Carlota, sits at the east end of the mountain valley in which the city chokes all the hillsides and valley floor with tall buildings. I’d watch a new co-pilot’s eyes widen as we were on approach looking up at those buildings. Later, all private aircraft would be banned from this airport and we would use the main airport in Miaquetia or one near the little town of Charallave cut out of the top of a mountain. It reminded me a lot of Catalina Island’s Airport-In-The-Sky.
As a corporate pilot I have had the opportunity to experience cultures and unusual settings in many places around the world. It is very satisfying after spending the day flying from Florida to Newfoundland, Canada, and then on across the Atlantic Ocean, to finally see the high intensity approach lighting on arrival into Santiago, Spain.
For me, these opportunities did not come easily as I spent years working in tough and very challenging environments to finally reach a point where my skills and experience were sought. Today, with a shortage of pilots, there are many opportunities for people with less experience, a positive attitude, and an adventurous spirit. Working as a pilot is challenging and rewarding in many ways. Seeing the world from a different viewpoint is just one of those.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.