The Liberty Gazette
October 14, 2008
October 14, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: By the tender age of three, A J started milking cows on his family’s farm. By the ripe age of four, he and his brother were responsible for 12 cows, morning and evening milking. The Texas boys grew up learning the value of work and responsibility, but that didn’t stop them from dreaming. By the age of eight, A J knew he wanted to fly.
Captain A J High became a pilot for the Army in 1941 when he was just 18 years old, and later a commercial airline pilot for Trans-Texas Airways at the age of 24, flying as a First Officer until he could legally be designated Captain on his 25th birthday. His career spanned the evolution of commercial airline passenger service in Texas from its beginnings to the modern era, and he flew every aircraft from converted Army C-47 prop planes to jet-engined DC-9s. His book, Meant To Fly; the Career of Captain A.J. High, Pilot for Trans-Texas Airways, is a history of some of the early airlines, the growth of the airline industry in Texas, and Captain High’s first-hand accounts of near disasters and personal experiences.
“There are several reasons for writing this book,” he told us last week. “I had a story that needed to be told. I was one of the luckiest of men; I got to do what I loved for a living. I was also lucky to have been put on the earth at a time when flying was still a great adventure. I am one of the last of the ‘tree-toppers’–pilots of the early commercial aviation era.” Captain High was one of the original 16 pilots who started Trans-Texas Airways in 1947. “In our way, we were pioneers. We had to teach ourselves how to fly new aircraft. There were no classes. We learned how to fly by flying.” Now, the last of those original sixteen Trans-Texas Airlines pilots, the Captain feels, “I have a legacy to leave, because I am the only one left who knows the stories.”
Mike: Captain High’s book also serves to preserve part of the history of commercial passenger service in Texas, especially the history of Trans-Texas Airways and Texas International Airlines. So much has been written about military aviation but not enough about the start up of commercial aviation. Many airlines came and went and their records and history ended up in trash piles. This was the case with both Trans-Texas and Texas International.
“I loved my airplanes,” A J says with still a young smile. “They each had a different feel and a distinct personality. Most pilots of my era wouldn’t have flown if they didn’t truly love it. I’m thankful. I’ve been given the gift of doing the only thing I ever wanted to do since I was eight years old – fly!” A J hopes his book will inspire others to reach for their own dreams. He believes “that everything is possible if you just give it your best effort. That worked for me, and I promise you, it was worth it!”
Meant To Fly, published by Morrow House in Houston, will be available this month at several outlets, including the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby where Captain High will be signing copies on November 22. For more information call the museum at (713) 454-1940.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.