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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Monday, May 17, 2010

January 19, 2010 Ninety-Nines, women pilots

The Liberty Gazette
January 19, 2010

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

Linda:
Celebrating 50 years of the Houston Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, the oldest women pilot organization, Mike and I recently attended a party honoring the chapter’s history and many of the long-time members. I enjoyed visiting with some of my favorite chick pilots, including West Houston Airport’s Shelly Lesikar-DeZevallos, National Aerobatic Champion, Debbie Rihn-Harvey, and long time Houston flight instructor and FAA designated pilot examiner, Maybelle Fletcher.

Always armed with funny stories, once Maybelle has the microphone, look out! Recognized for her contributions and 60-year membership, she spoke of what lured her into flying, and how after learning to fly she met the man she would marry. “Larry wanted to date me, but I told him no,” she reminisced. “But a few days later he told me, ‘I have $1,500 in my pocket. I can either buy you a big diamond ring or an airplane.’ So I asked, ‘Does that mean you have to come with the airplane?’”

Larry and Maybelle Fletcher have been an item for 61 years, and at last count Maybelle had given over 10,000 pilot check rides in Houston. No telling how many pilots she has taught to fly.

She told other stories, like the students who got airplanes into a spin, and how she’d had to get them out. But some time ago I’d heard another great Maybelle story, so I asked her to tell it again – the one about her daughter. Laughing her delicate but mischievous laugh, she began, “Oh yes, well you see, my daughter began flying at Day 20. I just strapped her in the back and gave flying lessons, so she already had 200 hours in her logbook by the time she was two. That’s when I was trying to get this young man ready to solo. We were landing, and usually I’d remind the student to pull up into the flare at the proper time, but I remained silent, hoping he’d do that on his own. Being accustomed to the engine noises and how flying lessons go, my two-year old daughter perked up from the back and crossing her arms yelled, ‘pull your nose up!’ She was expecting me to say that, and when I didn’t she just said it for me!”

Mike: With 30,000 hours logged, Maybelle has lots of great adventures to tell. Meanwhile, this week in Austin the Texas Aviation Association will have it’s annual membership meeting. The keynote speaker will be Carol Foy, the Spicewood gal who, with co-pilot CarolAnn Garratt, broke the world speed record for flying around the world west bound in a single engine airplane. The ladies flew CarolAnn’s made-in-Texas Mooney. Carol Foy fell in love with flying after her airline pilot husband bought a Mooney. She thought she should learn how to land it in an emergency. But then she went on to earn her private pilot license, instrument and multi-engine ratings, commercial and instructor certificates. She has flown the Air Race Classic many times, winning in 2006. Their around-the-world flight brought awareness and raised over $150,000 for Lou Gehrig’s Disease which has affected family members of both women.

Linda: Patrick Griffitts sent me a rare find he came across while in the U.K., an autographed copy of “I Must Fly” by Sheila Scott, the first British pilot to fly around the world. Now I’m wondering, what airplane would I want to fly around the world.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

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