The Liberty Gazette
October 28, 2008
October 28, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: I get a real kick out of Patti Atkins. She was instrumental in assisting us with some of the necessities of the Neault Benefit Fly-In back in May, but until recently all our communication had been by phone or email. Now that I’ve had the privilege of visiting with her face to face, it’s great to know there’s another chick pilot around here who understands the value of aviation.
Patti worked at KSHN when she started dating Earl Atkins. Earl was teaching Linda Rusk to fly and one day Benny Rusk asked Patti if she would be Earl’s dinner date that evening. When Patti began accompanying him in his aerial jaunts, Earl insisted Patti learn to fly. But, she says, “I didn’t want to. I just wanted to learn how to land – you know, in case of emergency.” That didn’t make sense to Earl, so Patti learned to fly, starting out in Charles Wiggins’ Citabria. Patti joined Earl in the Valley in 1986 when they married, but Earl wasn’t agreeable to letting Patti fly anything other than a Citabria until he felt she had mastered it, including stalls, spins, and inverted flight. While visiting her folks in Hull, Patti called on Charles Wiggins and explained her plight. She needed to borrow his Citabria and take it back to the Valley to finish her private license requirements so Earl would let her fly other airplanes.
Soon Patti started her instrument training. Now I thought instrument training took some focus, so it’s impressive that she took her instrument, commercial, and multi-engine check ride all in one. By then she had been flying DC-3’s, Navajos, Cessna 411, and the Lockheed Super Constellation, a large, four-engine airplane.
Someone with Patti’s experience could be full of ego, but she’s not. Her response to my expression of amazement was a gracious, “I flew with such great guys that anyone would be able to fly those airplanes – you couldn’t mess up; and they really wanted me to do it.” I told her I thought it was her personality that made them eager to teach her how to fly all those airplanes, but she simply said, “Linda, you know that it’s the really good pilots who want you to love flying as much as they do – they want to share what they love.” I understand.
Often the brunt of many pranks from the guys, Patti proved her pilot skills time and time again. With “only a few thousand hours” Patti has dropped jumpers, flown freight, and handled the stress of performing in numerous “Tora! Tora! Tora!” air show re-enactments, flying a DC-3…”a Super DC-3 actually,” according to Patti. And there’s an interesting story to that DC-3, which we’ll share with you next week. Mike’s been in Kansas at the Hawker-Beech factory training in the new Hawker 900XP jet. He may have a thing or two to talk about.
Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.