Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: World record holder CarolAnn Garratt was back in Houston recently sharing her adventures in around-the-world flying and a subject near and dear to her heart, raising awareness and funds for research for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. CarolAnn and her record-breaking partner, 2006 Air Race Classic champion, Carol Foy, departed Orlando International westbound on December 2, 2008 and flew around the earth in CarolAnn’s Mooney to shatter the 20-year record set in a Bonanza.
Preparations began 18 months prior with research and flight planning. For the most benign weather they would fly in December and stay close to the Equator. Garnering an impressive international support crew was an essential ingredient for these two accomplished pilots. CarolAnn, a retired mechanical engineer, had circumnavigated the globe in 2003, but that was a leisurely jaunt. There would be little time for sleep in this “Dash for a Cure.”
For publicity, the pilots appeared at AirVenture in Oshkosh and sat in a Mooney for 24 hours. They set hard-and-fast rules about the flight, including weather minimums and what circumstances would dictate deviation to an alternate airport for landing. The westbound route would take advantage of the Easterly Trade Winds, which occur in most of the world. They would sleep in two-hour shifts and plan the route to maximize the stops in U.S. territory. The flying pilot was always on oxygen at night, and a full instrument approach was flown for every night landing. Flight leg-times ranged from 16-23 hours.
Lack of sleep, altered eating habits, a weather detour and somehow getting 30 gallons less fuel than they paid for in Djibouhti (imagine hearing a fuel tank go dry over Central Africa) couldn’t overshadow the adrenaline or the satisfaction when the pair spoke with school children from the cockpit, and called ALS sufferers to say, “This flight’s for you.”
With an FAA waiver allowing 15% over gross weight the Mooney was equipped with extra fuel tanks for a total capacity of 195 gallons (1,170 lbs) of avgas. Tools and fuel tanks crammed in the cockpit left precious little room for much else; CarolAnn toted her toothbrush in her flightsuit pocket.
Mike: 70 years after Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis, CarolAnn and Carol blew away the old record:
Old record in a Bonanza: 19 days, 54.6 mph
Garratt/Foy: 8 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes, and 53 seconds, 115.35 mph
The pilots spent 158 hours flying 20,400 nautical miles (time on the ground counts on the clock), and paid all expenses themselves so that funds raised would go directly to ALS research and support. Perhaps the best news CarolAnn has to report, what makes the record and its publicity valuable, is seeing progress in research for treatment and a cure for ALS. A new medicine which began testing last year is showing hope. While it’s too late to help her mother, or any of the good friends she’s made along the journey, CarolAnn isn’t giving the disease a break. One day the new world record she longs to see will be a reality – a cure for ALS. There’s more for you to know at www.ALSWorldFlight.com; and check out her books, “Upon Silver Wings” and “Upon Silver Wings II World-Record Adventure.”