formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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June 29, 2010 Photo Finish for Fast Flyers

The Liberty Gazette
June 29, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Mike raced our Cheetah in the West Texas 100 air race in Plainview–his first air race–and won our class, Factory 5. But the big excitement was in the super fast planes: Bob Axsom, #71 in an RV-6A, and Jason Rovey, #391, an RV-8. Get a load of this:

Bob: I made up a detailed race checklist and programmed the course into the GPS. The actual start was at the far end of the departure runway so I stayed low, accelerated until the end, then turned left on course and climbed a few hundred feet above ground level.

The first turn was 26 miles away, around the right side of a plateau sitting in a canyon. At low altitudes it’s hard to get a good perspective and picking up natural turn points can be a problem but I saw the canyon and the plateau itself well before the turn. Cutting a “pylon” will cost ten minutes, missing it by more than a mile is disqualifying. My ground speed was in the 180-knot range. Not too long after I banked around the plateau, called "Race 71 turn-one" and headed off toward turn-two, I heard Race 391 make his turn-one call; he’s not far behind.

Jason: During the first half of the race we had a nice tailwind. I slowly climbed until turn-two, reaching 1300’ above the ground. Through turn-two I descended and was then on the deck for the rest of the race knowing we’d be fighting a headwind.

Bob: I decided to stay low and not try for a tailwind higher up. Turn-two was a dirt strip 26 miles from turn-one where the elevation begins to drop. Drifting down with the terrain my ground speed picked up to between 190 and 200 knots but I had to find this dirt strip with nothing but a north-south road and a house by the strip as visual aids. I saw the house and the dirt strip just off to the left, a little wide but it was a tight turn. I made my turn-two call and almost immediately heard “Race 391 turn two”; he’s making good time.

As I rolled out of the turn and fine-tuned the heading for turn-three, I had to maximize my speed. I stayed low back over the higher ground and came up to clear the Floydada runway as late as practical.

The speed dropped off to the low 170-knot range. The distance was 25 miles to turn-three. As I made my turn call I saw Jason low and off to the right. It was like we were tied together. I made some adjustments trying for more speed and saw my engine temperatures increasing but my speed decayed slightly. The distance between us was growing. More adjustments, the speed came back, and we were locked by an invisible bond racing to the finish.

Jason: We were low and it was hard to tell which building was the turn point. I saw Bob going a little left and I had not seen the pylon yet. I must have only found the building a second or two before him. Without making this turn slightly before him I would have been following him to the finish line. A great first race for me and I was in good competition with a gentleman.

Mike: Jason finished 21 seconds ahead of Bob. Bob’s overall speed: 204.89 mph, Jason’s: 207.04. Great competition and camaraderie is shared by this group.

Liberty pilot takes to the air in famous air race

The Liberty Gazette
June 22, 2010

Liberty resident Linda Street-Ely is taking to the skies again, redefining her family’s racing heritage. The granddaughter of 1921 Indianapolis 500 third-place finisher, Percy Ford, Linda has moved up, in a sense. Beginning June 22, Linda and her co-pilot, Dr. Elizabeth Kummer, of Dallas, will start the timer as they race down the runway at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida, taking off on the first of eight legs in the 2010 Air Race Classic, the only all-woman transcontinental air race. They will have four days to complete the race, ending in Frederick, Maryland, the headquarters of the largest aviation organization in the world, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Pilot, paralegal, author and speaker, Linda began flying five years ago and is racing in her third Air Race Classic. With her husband, Mike Ely, a professional pilot, she has co-authored nearly 200 articles on aviation, including a weekly column, “Ely Air Lines,” in the Liberty Gazette, and aviation articles for other publications as well. She is the author of the book, “When We Move to Heaven: A family love story” (, her personal story of hope and healing, which she also shares speaking to groups.

She and Mike also race their plane in the Sport Air Racing League, and when they aren’t racing, enjoy flying with their canine companions, Abby and Chip, who they adopted from a rescue shelter. Sharing their passion for aviation as an activity that’s good for families, businesses and communities, the Elys promote general aviation through public speaking, writing and aviation programs. Linda has chaired the Liberty Airport Advisory Board and serves as AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer for the Liberty Airport. Her competitive nature and love for precision flying also got her hooked on aerobatics. Linda was the recipient of the 2007 Jan Jones Memorial Scholarship for aerobatic training, taking home a third place trophy in her first aerobatic competition.

Co-pilot Elizabeth “Liza” Kummer, M.D., is a retired internist, and an FAA Airman Medical Examiner, and a breast cancer survivor. This is the first air race for Dr. Kummer, who has been flying for two years, and is an instrument rated private pilot.

Last year Linda noticed there were several Racers who flew for charities. “I thought that was such a wonderful idea, and why not do something to benefit someone else while we’re having fun?” So this year Team Ely-Kummer is raising funds for CaringBridge, “In honor of my oldest daughter and grandson, who have benefited greatly from CaringBridge, I’d like to give something back,” Linda said. Her grandson Myles was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency six years ago. “Most people know it as ‘the boy in the bubble disease.’ He was born with no immunity.” Two bone marrow transplants have been unsuccessful, and little Myles’s battles against lymphoma, arthritis, asthma, and much more have been taxing on the family. With over a billion users, CaringBridge provides free web sites that connect family and friends during a serious health event, care and recovery, and through that connection, CaringBridge brings together a global community of care powered by the love of family and friends in an easy, accessible and private way. “It’s been a saving grace as an avenue for support for so many people fighting serious illnesses,” Linda added.

Linda and Liza are hoping to garner many fans through their race site at, and are hopeful those fans will click on the link to CaringBridge and donate in support. To encourage a following, the team has a tracker so they can be tracked online through their blog during the race.

Air Race Classic, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a purpose to ignite that spirit of competition and camaraderie that is a boon to aviation. The race tends to spur dreamers on to pursue personal goals. The general public is drawn to the cities participating in the start, fuel stops, and finish, as well as home towns of pilots. Many people join the excitement through sponsorship, ground-air assistance, timing and officiating, and as spectators and supporters. Overall, each summer brings the spirit of the race to advance aviation through education, competition, careers, and fun.

“It was eight years after my grandfather’s third place finish at Indy when twenty chick pilots with a sense of adventure challenged each other in what was dubbed the “First Women’s Air Derby,” and became affectionately known as the “Powder Puff Derby” when Will Rogers saw lady pilots powdering their collective noses prior to starting up the props,” says Linda. Taking off from Santa Monica, California, they raced their fabulous flying machines to the site of the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. The year was 1929 and the races continued each year until WWII, when both Indy and the Women’s Air Derby were put on hold. Post-war, the name was changed to “All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race.” Today’s Air Race Classic picked up after AWTAR was discontinued in 1977, continuing that traditional transcontinental speed competition.

Teams work with weather, aircraft performance at different altitudes, and air traffic conditions. They spend hours pouring over charts and weather forecasts to formulate race strategies. Even though there is competitiveness, there is a strong sense of camaraderie among racers. Pre- and post-race activities develop strong bonds of friendship and respect. Safety is always a priority.

While it used to be that the fastest airplane won the race, now all airplanes are handicapped - meaning each plane is flying against its own target speed, so every entry has an equal chance of victory. Handicapping encourages competitors to play the elements; weather, winds, etc. Flying is restricted to Visual Flight Rules conditions in daylight hours only, but at least one of the two pilots on each team must have either an Instrument Rating or 500 hours as Pilot in Command. This race is open to female pilots, and airplanes from 145 to 600 horsepower.

Each of the eight race legs, between 280-320 miles, is timed and with handicapping that means that it’s possible for the last arrival to be the winner. Reaching each leg, the pilots must fly by a timer and then either land or continue on in the next leg.

In Linda’s first air race, 2008, 34 teams had four days to complete a route of approximately 2,400 miles starting in Bozeman, Montana and ending in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Transcontinental air racing requires endurance and patience, as Linda attests. “Waiting out bad weather, choosing the best time of day and altitude to fly each leg of the race to find the optimal atmospheric conditions, i.e., best tailwinds or least head winds, trying to stay on course with not even a degree of change in the heading, presents challenges to staying focused while encouraging that part of me that is persistent and competitive. My 2008 teammate, Caroline Baldwin, and I placed 18th in her airplane, a Piper Cherokee 180. Not what we hoped for, but we incurred no penalties, did not have to deviate for weather, had a positive score on each leg, and finished the race without being disqualified. I learned how to do a low-level fly-by for a timer and how to build a race strategy. I met some incredible women, some who fly professionally, or are retired professional pilots, others who do this for fun; a song-writer, a few engineers, a retired federal judge, a farmer, a few teachers, and many more with interesting backgrounds. Every racer was treated to the most hospitable, friendly folks in every town where the race touched down.”
She raced again in 2009, with race partner Jodie Perry, of Austin, Texas, finishing 17th in Jodie’s Piper Archer. “This year will be the first year I will race my own airplane, a Grumman Cheetah, and it will be Liza’s first race. We are truly excited about the adventures that await, and are honored to be flying in support of”

Just knowing this air race is something not many people have done, even those with extensive aviation backgrounds, the challenge that it offers these women is enticing. “My mom and my husband are two of our biggest fans. Mom has team t-shirts made for us and Mike is always at the finish line, cheering us on to that final timing line and for all the celebration and activities over the next two days.”

“Just last year I suddenly recalled when I was young and [former Indy racer] Bob Harkey, a good friend of my parents’, was always asking me to go flying with him. I didn’t go back then, but when I remembered it, I called Bob and said, ‘Hey Bob, guess what? I learned to fly!’ There was this momentary silence and then, “Well, what took you so long?”

This year’s air race will also bring back another historical aspect, live broadcast of the race by HAM radio operators. The First Women’s Air Derby was broadcast by HAM operators in 1929. Radio operator Eric G. (N8AAY), is working with the Frederick Amateur Radio Club and expects to be on both HF and VHF frequencies. Station W1A will operate near the calling frequencies on both 40 (daytime) and 80 (night time).

Official race information will be posted at Linda is hoping you’ll check in during the race, “and cheer on all the racers to an exciting and fun finish.”

Airports/Timing lines on the 2010 Air Race Classic Route
Racers must fly the race in this order, crossing time lines at low levels, 200 feet above the ground.

Start: Page Field, KFMY, Fort Myers, FL Nautical Miles Statute Miles
Waycross-Ware County, KAYS, Waycross, GA 281.14 323.53
Tuscaloosa Regional, KTCL, Tuscaloosa, AL 289.90 333.61
Memorial Field, KHOT, Hot Springs, AR 283.49 326.23
Cameron Memorial, KEZZ, Cameron, MO 319.99 368.24
Southern Illinois, KMDH, Carbondale-Murphysboro, IL 262.53 302.11
Elkhart Municipal, KEKM, Elkhart, IN 279.92 322.13
Mid-Ohio Valley Regional, KPKB, Parkersburg, WV 252.16 290.18
Frederick Municipal, KFDK, Frederick MD 188.55 216.98
Total Race Distance 2157.68 2483.01

June 15, 2010 Ranger Fly-In

The Liberty Gazette
June 15, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

: The afternoon sun reflects off the wings of a clipped-wing Piper Cub climbing high above Ranger, Texas, its 65-horsepower engine straining as the plane struggles for more altitude. Reaching top-of-climb the pilot kills the engine and slows the airplane to just above aerodynamic stall speed to stop the propeller, then rolls upside down diving back to the turf below. With great grace and precision, over and under, upside down, right side up, the pilot exchanges altitude for airspeed then airspeed for altitude, gliding almost effortlessly toward the earth. Announcer Mike “Spanky” Gallaway pauses so the crowd can hear the air whisper as it slips around the silent aircraft. As the pilot performs one last roll Spanky says of his friend, “He’s just showin’ off, folks.” The pilot eases the airplane onto the grass strip with just enough speed to coast and spin the tail to the right, stopping right in front of the crowd in the very spot he started. This incredible demonstration of energy management was performed at the third annual Ranger Fly-In and Air Show by David Martin, a U.S. National Aerobatic Champion.

Each year David brings two airplanes to Ranger, performing two distinct routines. The other aircraft this year was a 1936 B├╝cker Jungmeister, a small, open cockpit biplane. A third generation professional pilot, David began flying his father’s Bonanza at age 12. His granddad, a barnstormer in the 1930’s, insisted David’s primary flight training include aerobatics.

Linda: Jared Calvert hosted his third big event at Texas’s third oldest airport, still a grass strip. The fly-in grows every year, and this year the crowd was treated to outstanding performances by U.S. Aerobatic team members Spanky and David (who will perform at Oshkosh this year), as well as Jason Newburg, also an Oshkosh AirVenture performer, and newcomer Scott Lane. Spanky flew first because he’s good on the microphone, so when the other pilots fly their routines he provides colorful commentary.

Between David Martin’s two performances Scott was looping, rolling, tailsliding, and hammerheading his beautiful red Pitts. Of course, I’m thrilled by all the performances, and Jason’s knock-out green viper paint job on his Pitts is second only to what that young man can do with an airplane. Newburg’s landing was also impressive, although unlike Martin he kept the engine running, as he slipped the plane in such a steep descent it almost looked like he dropped straight down over the end of the runway. I could go on and on about the talent that showed up this year, but the camaraderie, enthusiasm, and genuine, grassroots family fun is what makes this fly-in so popular.

Jared charges nothing for the air show and people come from all over, by ground and air, to enjoy the show, eat, and check out the airplanes up close. Among this year’s record-setting 162 airplanes were a Russian Antonov AN-II, Stearmans, Pietenpols, a Waco, and lots more.

This year’s fly-in also marked the first official gathering of the new International Biplane Association, founded by Dayton’s Jed Keck. 19 biplanes attended. The 1940 Air Terminal Museum flew in their raffle plane, a Cessna 172, to be given away July 17th. They sold a bunch of tickets ($50 each). Museum pilot P.J. Gustafson even sold one to an air traffic controller while en route to the fly-in.

There’s a Tomato Fest and Cull Drop fly-in coming up. As much as I’d love to drop rotten tomato bombs, I’m not sure we’ll get to that one, as there’s an air race I’m planning for.

June 8, 2010 Adventure at Big Country AirFest part 3 of 3

The Liberty Gazette
June 8, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Part 3 of 3
Mike: While we enjoy sharing our love of aviation with folks who are interested, there are challenges associated with having an airplane on display to the public. Responsibility for crowd control around the race planes at Dyess’s Big Country AirFest rests on the pilots. We wanted to protect air show fans from unknowingly putting themselves in harm’s way, and protect our airplane from damage. One tot-toting mom tried to move a propeller (not a good idea) on a Beechcraft Bonanza parked next to us. I’m not sure whether she appreciated Linda’s warning but it was said in her best interest. Little kids naturally want to climb on planes; unsupervised children will climb on wheel pants and hang from wing struts. But it’s all part of the scene I suppose. One friend said recently, “Don’t ask me about digging Gummy Bears out of my pitot tube.”

But for all the adventure we encountered at Dyess that weekend, one turn of events had nothing to do with airplanes. An announcement was made early in the day for the owner of a certain vehicle to return to their car and get their dog out. The outside temperature was into the 80’s. Not long after that came a second announcement: “We have the best security here at Dyess Air Force Base! Let’s give them a hand. The window is broken and the dog is alive.” I don’t know what would possess someone to take a dog to an air show and leave it in a hot car all day. Thank God someone came to the rescue.
Linda: We remained one more night in Abilene, opting out of participation in the mass exodus that follows large public events. Mike wanted to hang loose for a time, so the place was pretty quiet when we left for the hotel.

Waking to a sunny Sunday, we enjoyed the morning worship service at the small base chapel before filing our flight plan and heading out. We taxied out, our Cheetah dwarfed by the huge B1B hangar, and departed southbound off Runway 16. The afternoon heat and Dyess’s nearly 1,800-foot elevation greatly reduced the Cheetah’s climb performance but we eventually managed to reach 7,500 feet. A little while later strong wind gusts kept us from landing in Burnet for lunch, which, as it turns out, gave us a new experience landing in Georgetown.

Nice place, great history, friendly people, and an active airport. Georgetown’s airport has two runways, neither of which was directly aligned with the wind that day, making for a sporty ride on short final, which turned into an uneventful landing. While waiting for one of the courtesy cars to return we discovered a unique museum inside the terminal. We browsed rows and rows of aircraft communication and navigation radios in display cases around the room, from old-time radio range receivers, to automatic direction finders and other types I’ve never seen before. I was fascinated with the collection, ignoring the growling coming from my stomach, when Mike suddenly laughed, saying, “Charlie’s been here.” Looking up, I saw Charlie Sisk’s book, “Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle” sitting on the shelf. An excellent pilot and good friend, Sisk, from Dayton, builds custom rifles. You will be hearing more about him.

June 1, 2010 Adventure at Big Country AirFest, part 2 of 3

The Liberty Gazette
June 1, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Part 2 of 3
Linda: When the early morning thunderstorms cleared race boss, Mike Thompson, ordered the race planes to be pulled out of the hangar and fueled up. However, communication problems at Dyess Air Force Base left us with hangar doors locked and no fuel truck in sight. After a few phone calls and a bit of scrambling the hangar was opened, the fuel truck arrived, only 45 minutes late. Boss Thompson didn’t leave anything out of the safety briefing, but went through it quickly and shooed us racers out to our planes in a hurry.

We lined up, engines running, ready to taxi. The lead plane called Dyess Ground Control for taxi clearance. Then through our headsets we all heard this: “You’re six minutes late so your race has been scrapped.” There was a momentary dead silence during which I imagine every jaw in every race cockpit dropped in disbelief. Boss Thompson quickly squelched the few responses advising against arguing with the Air Force and promising he’d try to work something out. Apparently there were more communication problems because other air show acts were scrapped too.

It’s all in what you make of it. I’ve faced bigger disappointments. Just landing at an active air force base was an experience, and we did have passes to VIP parties and fun stuff, and overall it was a great show. After some discussion the Ground Boss finally understood that race and acro planes were to be on static display when not flying, so eventually we taxied to the ramp, and opened the canopy. Children took turns sitting in the airplane while parents took pictures. Even some adults took a turn in the cockpit. We promoted all things aviation, answered lots of questions, and best of all met interesting people, like the lady who races her Camaro at the local drag strip and had won two races that weekend.

Mike: We met Kelly, a B-1 “wizzo”, Weapons Systems Officer who isn’t a pilot but looks forward to flying lessons someday. When we thanked him for his service he said it was his family who really sacrifices. He’s in Abilene for training and has seen his family only two weeks in the past six months.

Soon-to-be-Captain Andrew Long, a B-1 pilot, was extraordinarily helpful and friendly, offering to help move planes, getting water, and all manner of details. And Jeff, the C-130 pilot we met at the survivors’ hangar party is in one of two squadrons that alternate six-month duty in the Middle East. He and his wife are expecting their third baby soon, so it’s nice he can be home right now.

Unfortunately not all air show planes could get to Abilene because of the weather in Houston. The Lone Star Flight Museum’s B-17 “Thunderbird” was unable to depart Galveston, leaving a gap in the planned historic flight with the B-1, B-24, and B-25 legacy bombers.

But Ashley Battles did her wing-walking routine, and our friends Jeff B. and Jeff P. each demonstrated crowd-pleasing loops, rolls, hammerheads, and spins, in a Giles 200 and a Sukhoi SU29. They were scheduled to fly four different routines but half of their show was scrapped. It was obvious neither Jeff got enough acro fix, as they were the two wildest dancers at the survivors’ party.

While we enjoy sharing our love of aviation, sometimes crowd control can be interesting–fodder for next week.