The Liberty Gazette
March 11, 2008
March 11, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: If you didn’t read last week’s column, make sure you get a copy. Our aviation inspiration from Dayton continues this week.
After his first airplane ride with the Civil Air Patrol, Patrick Griffitts didn’t have much opportunity to fly from Liberty, but in 1975 Dayton ISD hired Richard Human to teach a drafting class. Mr. Human was a pilot and a mentor to Patrick. In a little shed behind his house he built a single-seat Volksplane, and using Patrick’s pick-up truck tugged the fuselage out to the airport. In a mentoring move Patrick will never forget, Mr. Human paid for the tug with a ride in a Piper Cub, arguably the epitome of general aviation.
While an earlier injury kept him from his dream of flying for the military, Patrick finally returned to the Liberty Airport in June, 1978 to take the first five lessons toward his private pilot license. The instructor’s signature is no longer legible in Patrick’s logbook, but he recalls that he lived east of Liberty in a house with a grass strip behind it. “The first time I saw it there was a Cessna 182 parked out front and I thought, now this is living.”
When the instructor went on to fly for Eastern Airlines Patrick continued his lessons at Beaumont Municipal (where he worked with aviation writer Gordon Baxter) and on New Years Eve 1979 finished his rating at Jefferson County. That led to a job as a line boy/mechanic helper at Bristow Helicopters in Sabine Pass, followed by a couple of years of school in Lake Charles at SOWELA Tech getting his Airframe and Powerplant license. While working as an airplane mechanic Patrick used his earnings to add more flight ratings.
Most of his flying has been more of a “bush” type, but he’s ATP-rated in airplanes, multi-engine land (with one jet type), sea, and helicopters. He holds a Commercial license with Instrument rating in single engine land and sea, along with the A&P mechanic license, and Inspector Authorization.
Linda: Now years later, that little boy from Dayton who once dreamed of flying has flown on every continent and in about half the countries of the world. His resume ranges from capturing/tagging wildlife, to live-line power line maintenance from a helicopter, delivering firearms for mercenaries, flying corporate jets, and more.
A bit over four years ago Patrick was contacted by a flight department in the Seattle area. Today he flies for Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen, operating helicopters and a Twin Otter amphibious. When his employer travels he operates a few helicopters based on yachts at various places around the world, providing security for the owners and guests.
Veda Glynn Keck (Rains), a lifelong resident of Dayton, must be proud of her son. He is living his dream, and says he expects to fly for a living until he’s at least 70 or 75. Meanwhile, during a trip to the Western Pacific, Patrick spotted an abandoned piece of history. We’ll tell you about that next week. Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.