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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July 27, 2010 AirVenture 2010

The Liberty Gazette
July 27, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Picture this: a gaggle of birds converging in Oshkosh, Wisconsin–more than 50 “Gooney Birds” actually–this week’s gathering the centerpiece of the world’s largest annual convention, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture. They’ve had lots of rain, but hopefully the weather will cooperate for the much anticipated event which this year celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Douglas DC-3. Debuting in 1935, it was the airliner of the late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s–the Golden Age of Aviation. The workhorse-of-an-aircraft continued to fly commercially well into the 90’s, but fewer than 100 airworthy DC-3s remain out of more than 14,000 built. In the military version as the C-47 they were used to fly supplies over “the Hump” from India into China, and later used in the Berlin Airlift. The Brits dubbed it “Gooney Bird.”

AirVenture is not only the largest annual convention of anything, anywhere, it’s one that embodies the spirit of aviation. Homebuilt and light sport, aerobatic and high performance planes, vintage and current warbirds, and even spacecraft are being showcased this very moment through August 1st, for a full week of pure “aviator heaven.” Concerts by bands such as Chicago, and Asleep at the Wheel, daytime and night time air shows, fireworks, a salute to Veterans that spans the entire event, and live auctions you can join in online through, are just some of the other special features.

For the Young Eagles Auction, Ford Motor Company created an aviation-themed car: the one-of-a-kind 2011 SR-71 “Blackbird” Mustang. In 2008, the Mustang AV8R (with hints of the F-22 “Raptor”) delivered a record auction contribution of $500,000. In 2009, the AV-X10 “Dearborn Doll” auctioned was crafted in honor of WWII aircraft. This year’s Mustang is the first collaboration of former U.S. Air Force flight instructor Carroll Shelby and long-time P-51 pilot Jack Roush. The SR-71 “Blackbird” jet first took flight in 1964, the year Ford’s Mustang was introduced. Shelby and Roush helped design, engineer, and produce the SR-71 “Blackbird” Mustang, which includes their embroidered signatures in the seats.

Young Eagles and other EAA programs are designed to inspire youngsters to become engineers, aviators, astronauts, scientists, and innovators–the aviation pioneers of tomorrow. Introduced in July 1992, Young Eagles has already flown more than 1.5 million young people at no charge, making it the largest youth aviation education program in history, thanks to EAA.

Linda: Tom Poberezny is EAA’s president and AirVenture chairman; his dad, Paul is the guy who started it all, way up there in cheeseland back in 1953. It now draws over a million people each year. Thousands camp under the wings of their airplanes or on the lake shore nearby where a couple hundred floatplanes are moored. The theater in the woods shows new and old movies, including this year, “Fly About” and “Breaking Through the Clouds,” and all those people flock like gooney birds to the daily seminars offered by the best known aviation experts in the world. There are seminars on how to use a new product to its fullest potential, and builder workshops; presentations on the latest news and events affecting aviation, the introduction of new aircraft, and jaw-dropping fly-bys. Check the schedule online at–it’s like a world’s fair of aviation and at its core is the spirit that every person attending can sense.

A million people like us, visiting and sharing experiences and enjoying the atmosphere, with the only real anxiety possibly being how nearly impossible it is to see everything here in a week.

July 20, 2010 Charlie Sisk: Business, Aviation, and Life part 2

The Liberty Gazette
July 20, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: In spite of his earlier hesitation, Dayton resident Charlie Sisk joined Grace Flight this year and says his experiences have been uplifting. Having witnessed his own sister suffer from the effects of Hodgkin’s disease, Charlie was uncertain whether he could handle getting that personal with people who are fighting for their lives. But now he says the benefits far outweigh his previous fears. “It takes a level of stress off people who are taking debilitating treatments knowing they have transportation to the doctor.” Grace Flight coordinates volunteer pilots with patients who need transportation to medical treatment. Many cannot afford commercial travel, nor risk the exposure to germs inherent in public transportation, i.e., airlines. For people who live far from where the most prominent medical facilities are, an organization such as Grace Flight may be their only hope. As they say, “Getting there is half the cure.”

“Another reason I like doing Grace Flights,” Charlie adds, “is that it lets me control my giving. I know that 100% is going directly to the people who need it.” Grace Flight accepts donations to fund facilities at Hobby Airport, and the minimal paid staff. Overhead is low, thanks to many volunteers.

“The patients are great,” he says of his passengers. Charlie shows them how to navigate using aeronautical charts and airport diagrams, and how to control air vents to help keep them from becoming sick during the flight. He puts a headset on them and has them write down frequencies they hear the controllers say. “I think it really helps keep the boredom down,” he explains. “How boring would it be to sit in a small plane for a couple hours with nothing to do, not feeling well, and not knowing what’s going on?”

Linda: Charlie’s got a heart for people. With his success he could easily be sitting around saying, “look at me, look what I’ve done,” but instead, he’s out there helping others. “On one flight we had some pretty rough weather conditions. It was lousy weather all the way. I think my passenger actually found it exciting, but I was concerned. Heading to Mineral Wells the wind was really picking up. There’s no control tower there, but the people on the ground said over the Unicom frequency that the wind was favoring landing on the taxiway.” The two runway options were both beyond the crosswind landing limits of the airplane. “About a mile out, I banked into the wind as hard as I could, with full opposite rudder, and began my final descent to the taxiway. About 300’ above the ground the wind suddenly stopped. In front of the crowd that had gathered to see if this pilot could make a landing in that wind, it was probably my best landing ever.” An exciting flight, no doubt; one that enabled one young man to have needed chemo treatment.

Grace Flight is something Charlie doesn’t take lightly. For those who don’t fly, or don’t own an airplane, he offers this suggestion: “You don’t have to fly to help. Ground volunteers are needed too. The economy is down, people with clerical or administrative skills, ground transportation, a cheerful attitude and a caring smile are needed. You don’t need any special skills for that.” To volunteer, call 888-500-0433, or Tell ‘em Charlie sent you.

July 13, 2010 Charlie Sisk: Business, Aviation, and Life part 1

The Liberty Gazette
July 13, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: 13-year old Charlie sat in the back seat of the old white Cessna 172. It was a short flight, maybe thirty minutes, but it changed his life. “I got to have me one of these,” would stay on his mind for nearly forty years. Then on July 4, 2006, Dayton resident Charlie Sisk, owner of Sisk Rifles, bought his first airplane, a 1957 Cessna 182.

He began primary flight training at the Cleveland airport until his first solo flight, then finished at Georgetown, and took his private pilot check ride at Brownwood airport.

Charlie talked close friend, Aaron Baker, owner of Cannon Safe, into learning to fly. When Aaron earned his private pilot license he knew he didn’t want to be limited to flying under Visual Flight Rules only, so the two discussed instrument training so they wouldn’t be grounded on rainy days, giving them the freedom and mobility both businessmen needed. Aaron made Charlie an offer he couldn’t refuse: he’d pay for the course if Charlie would take it first, and then help him through it. November 2007 Charlie began an accelerating instrument training course and earned his instrument rating in just ten days.

Linda: Charlie Sisk doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet. He’s down-to-earth, logical, and real smart. He’s got an uncanny understanding of human behavior and he “gets it” about life and how to treat others. If something isn’t worth pursuing, he knows when to walk away. His personality sets the tone for his book, “Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle,” which is really a lot about life in general, and very entertaining reading.

He relies heavily on his airplane for business, philanthropy, and an occasional pleasure trip, so if he wasn’t going to let his abilities limit him, he sure wasn’t going to let the airplane limit him either; he needed more instruments and an IFR certified GPS to use on bad weather days. In a sweet deal, he traded a custom rifle to Aaron, who traded a gun safe to someone else for a Garmin 430W, a really good IFR GPS that can get a pilot down pretty close to the runway when the clouds and visibility are low. The new GPS, along with a new autopilot, meant more possible flying days for Charlie.

A typical productive day for Sisk Rifles: fly to Carrizo Springs, deliver a rifle, fly to San Antonio, deliver a rifle, fly to Austin, deliver a rifle, and be home by 6 p.m. “Carrizo Springs is six hours one way by car. I couldn’t offer this kind of customer service without an airplane. Until you have a plane and learn what you can do with it, you really don’t know how valuable it is until you use it. You can’t put a dollar figure on that kind of personal service,” Charlie says of using his airplane to promote his product and deliver to customers. “These days it seems the notion of customer service is all but gone. Yet it has never been more important.”

Mike: Charlie Sisk is one of those rare individuals who understands that what’s good for business is good for life, and vice-versa. That same drive he has for superior customer service shows up in his philanthropic endeavors as well. We’ll write more on those endeavors next week. Meanwhile, check out his website:

July 6, 2010 Mission flying

The Liberty Gazette
July 6, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: My first experience with mission flying came in 2005 when I sat in the right seat of a Cessna 206 and flew over Central Africa with pilot Andy Keller, and a small crew from Answering the Call. Andy, who also works as the Chief Scheduler for AIM Air, was kind enough to let me fly from the right for most of the flight. I held a student pilot certificate then and was eager to have the experiences flying in conditions far different from what I was used to. We flew over glasslands, highlands, and deserts, trying to fly high enough above war zones to stay out of range, or avoid them altogether. There were, however, some “hot” areas along our route, an environment difficult and often dangerous.

Mike: AIM Air, part of the larger Christian ministry of Africa Inland Mission, operates a fleet of 12 aircraft in at least eight different African countries. With the main base of operations in Nairobi, Kenya, and aircraft in Uganda, and other locations, their work “enhances the ministries of evangelical missionaries, church workers, and Christian relief and development agencies in East and Central Africa, by providing air transportation to people working in Church planting, evangelism, community development, medical missions, children’s education, pastor training, emergency relief, Bible translation, short-term mission trips,” and much more. AIM Air pilots fly up to a million miles every year, serving the needs of 80 Christian organizations and hundreds of missionaries.

Aviation ministry supports the broad work of missions and the Church; the airplanes they fly are tools, “moving missionaries and cargo over some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain, to bring hope and the Good News to some of the world’s most forgotten peoples...a vehicle to help take the Great Commission to the ends of the earth.”

Almost all equipment is donated and the pilots and crew are volunteers who are financially supported by churches and individual donors in their home countries. When visiting missionaries request air service they contribute toward the minimum operating cost of the airplane they use.

Linda: Later that same year I returned to Africa, this time a newly licensed pilot, and flew right seat in a Cessna Caravan, with Mission Aviation Fellowship, another wonderful organization.
While we’re on the subject of faith and flying, Sue Halpain, of Oklahoma, wrote an aviator’s prayer last year, and read it at the start of the Okie Derby proficiency air race. It is both creative and sincere:

“Dear Lord, Lift our spirits to unexpected heights. We ask your guidance as we chart the course of our lives. Allow us to follow your flight plan and not deviate from it. Help us to follow Your regulations, remembering that the only emergency procedure is to lean on You. Teach us to keep the communication lines to You open and on the right frequency. When we face the slips and skids of life and our gyros tumble, help us to get both wings level with our turn-and-bank centered on You. May we approach each day with sensitivity and courage, and never be guilty of carelessness or neglect. But most important, Lord, keep reminding us that You are always the Pilot in Command. Amen”