The Liberty Gazette
March 16, 2010
March 16, 2010
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: In addition to his service in HPD’s Helicopter Division, Steve Fingerhut (who we wrote about last week) has worked Houston’s Third Ward night shift, the Crime Scene Unit, where he also ran the dive team, Mounted Patrol, Dignitary Protection, Instructor of defensive tactics and physical training at the Academy, Criminal Intelligence, and Auto Theft. The day after 9/11 Steve received a call from Flight Safety, International, a professional pilot training company with 42 facilities worldwide. FSI asked Steve to set up and manage 24/7 security for their Houston location. His success there has since led to several other security jobs.
In his “spare time” he’s flown for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, assisting in Coast Guard Search and Rescue missions, flying blood, patrols, and flying mechanics and parts to downed airplanes. “We save the Coast Guard $6,000 an hour,” he explains. He has also served as Vice President of the Houston Aviation Alliance, the position Mike now holds.
Commenting on women aviators, Steve humbly related a personal experience that meant a lot to him. He gave legendary aviatrix Maybelle Fletcher her second and longest helicopter ride. “Mrs. Fletcher is such an incredible lady,” he said, “I took her up and we landed atop the municipal courts building, and the old Gulf building, and then flew over to Dunham Field in Crosby where we hovered at 800’ and I showed her an autorotation. She loved it.”
Mike: So we asked, what do you see as the true value of General Aviation to the public? He took that question and ran with it.
“Learning to fly makes you more valuable to the USA. We’re better educated citizens – we’ve had to learn about meteorology, aerodynamics, emergency procedures, and much more. As a result, we have more to offer, such as Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Grace Flights for the ill and courtesy flights for military veterans, flying blood and organs. I know that learning to fly changed the course of my life. And, without General Aviation, where are we going to get our military and commercial pilots? Civilian pilot training, where the airlines hire many pilots, is an integral part of General Aviation. We, in GA, take the load off the airline system. GA creates lots of jobs – billions of dollars and jobs – and post-9/11 it’s not real easy to fly commercial. The time, the hassle, you have to wonder if you really want to go through all that.”
To drive home the point, Steve mentioned an airline pilot friend with whom he flew to a funeral in Nebraska. “We could have taken an airliner at no cost, but time and convenience made it a poor choice for that trip, so we went in my Bonanza. We got there faster, didn’t have to endure the TSA, and landed at an airport much closer to our destination.” But one of the areas where Steve feels the greatest sense of contribution to his country is when he’s flying blood from Ellington Field to an interim destination, where it is carried on to Afghanistan. “I feel like I’m helping our troops that way. I’m a part of getting needed blood to people fighting terrorism. That feels good.”
Steve is one of several fine folks who live at RWJ Airpark in Chambers County. He and his wife, Bit, a CPA, enjoy living with their airplane and horse.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.