January 22, 2008
January 22, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: The other day I was wandering through the Aviator Shop, a pilot supply shop near Ellington Field. I was searching for something specific but being a pilot in such a location feels like a kid in a candy store. There is always something a pilot “needs.”
I came across a postcard showing a broken down building with the word Meadowlark on it. Meadowlark airport doesn’t exist anymore, but the memories of the place came streaming back, where many years ago I’d take my students for short field landing practice. Their reward for a job well done–meaning we actually landed on this short and narrow sixteen hundred foot runway–was to sit at a picnic table in front of that same old building and enjoy a hamburger, fries and a soda. We’d sit and watch the other pilots try their skills at landing amid the swirling crosswinds, dodging the spire of a church steeple near the end of the runway. We’d watch the banner towing airplanes sweep down, churn up dirt, and catch the banner, unfurling as they dragged it skyward.
That picture brought back pleasant memories of the kind of place that gives aviation its character and romance. In airman’s parlance it is known as the “hundred dollar hamburger” (the hamburger doesn’t cost that much, we just tend to find any excuse to fly). It may look like an ordinary hamburger but I tell you, sitting there watching airplanes fly and feeling the buzz of a busy airport makes that hamburger memory priceless.
Linda: John Purner thought it was such a great idea he now publishes a book annually and offers a subscription-based website called “The 100 Dollar Hamburger.” Through his book or website one can find airports all over this great country that offer restaurants, campgrounds, jogging, hiking, and biking trails, near-by golfing, hotels and B&B’s, get-aways, museums, air shows, and other attractions. Online a subscriber can enter comments about their experience and a rating system helps when it comes down to choosing which one to try next. With over 134 restaurants and 36 fly-in/camp-outs listed for Texas, we could keep busy for quite awhile.
Speaking of fly-ins, that’s a really popular activity among propeller-heads. Fly-ins.com offers a free email subscription to notices of fly-ins and other aviation events. Not a week goes by without several notices popping into my in-box about gatherings of aviation enthusiasts. Many are sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol, the Experimental Aircraft Association, or by local airport businesses. Pancake breakfasts and BBQ lunch fly-ins attract flyers and their companions and the general public to meet, eat, and enjoy the camaraderie unique to aviation. I’ve even heard of an “adventure pilot” event, where entrants compete in spot-landing contests, then bike a mile and kayak another mile to the finish line.
There’s lots of fun to be had, because after all, pilots are just plane people with a special air about them.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.