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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December 8, 2009 Thanksgiving flight

The Liberty Gazette
December 8, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Looking back over the left wing Linda commented on the eastern sky’s growing light as we droned along at sixty-five hundred feet southwest-bound. Below and mostly to the east of us along a river valley were smatterings of light pinpointing concentrations of civilization encompassed by scattered lights from more remote outposts. We had departed Hagerstown, Maryland in our Cheetah at a chilly 5:30 a.m. on our return to Houston at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. Now we watched as the world slowly illuminated around us.

Linda: I love to be airborne when the Sun rises. The sky changes slowly from darkness pierced by stars to hues of purple, dark blue, blue-green, then to red-orange as the Sun nears the horizon. Mike pointed out what looked like fog along the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. It was actually ridge-hugging alpenglow, light reflected from the sky coming to life east of us. The sky to the west was starting to illuminate with reflected light.

Potomac Approach Control was giving us “flight following” as we winged our way to our first stop, Beckley, West Virginia. The controller, issuing a constant stream of instructions to airliners departing Washington Regan International and Dulles airports outbound in the early morning just as we were, helped as another set of eyes in the sky. The constant rhythm of the controller’s voice was occasionally broken by our own conversations as we dealt with up and down drafts generated by the easterly flow of wind across the low mountains. We experienced this the previous day when we departed Chesapeake, Virginia for Hagerstown. As the Sun broke over the horizon, patches of snow along the ridge tops reflected it and the detail of the terrain below us began to show off its ripped definition. The Sun warmed us in our Cheetah as we made our way to Beckley, on our way home from a busy weekend with my eldest daughter, bonus-son, a grandbaby, and a book-signing event.

Mike: Dawn flight is popular poetic material, has been included in the title of movies and generally immortalized in print. It is an experience unto its own in the world of aviation. Every ridge, valley, lake and river takes on a different look from above during those few moments before sunrise, and likewise as the Sun descends in the evening. In the morning we are greeting the day and this wake-up of the world illuminates before our eyes in such a way that no written word or picture can ever describe completely. It has to be experienced.

Linda: It also beats, hands-down, the rough start we had the day before Thanksgiving. We didn’t get airborne before sunrise because the FBO filled the tanks too full and had to be called out to drain them. Trying to take-off over gross weight is never a good, nor safe idea. But once the tanks were drained we benefited from the 50+mph tail winds. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen the Cheetah do 185 mph ground speed. Of course, that meant headwinds on the return trip, but it gave us more time to enjoy the beauty of the flight.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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