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 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.

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