By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Returning from our Fall vacation last month, the same tailwinds we enjoyed on the way up to New England were headwinds on the way back, considerably reducing ground speed and thereby requiring more fuel stops. First stop after departing Pittsfield, Massachusetts came three and a half hours later in Morgantown, West Virginia, once we cleared a lot of mountain ranges along the route. The airport was quite busy, which we learned was due to a local college football game. The FBO fueled the plane, the airport restaurant fueled us, and we were airborne again.
Linda: Often when we’re travelling during football season we end up at an airport in a town where an important game is going on. Usually it’s the college games which affect the general aviation ramps, filling up with aircraft of the many alumni who fly in. A fuel stop in Knoxville, Tennessee proved to be another stop like Morgantown. A football game was going full tilt when we contacted Knoxville Approach Control. It so happened it was my turn in the left seat on that leg. The approach controller vectored us around the University of Tennessee Neyland Stadium so we could get a good view, which, were I a football fan (I know, I’ll dodge the tomatoes) I’d have been thrilled about. “Grumman 958, how’d you like that view of the game,” he asked as we flew along the southeast edge of the stadium. The Volunteers were playing the Alabama Crimson Tide and we figured it must have been halftime, judging by the barrage of camera flashes we could see from above, and undoubtedly a capacity crowd in the 102,455-seat venue. My honest response to the controller probably set me apart from everyone else in town. “Well, I’m not much of a football fan, but I sure love flying!” His quick follow-up likely hid his real feelings, saying, “Well either way, it’s a great view,” before handing me off to the airport’s control tower.
Mike: The airport ramp was packed; jets, turboprops and piston airplanes everywhere. “You here for the game,” was the presumptuous question posed more like a statement of fact until we shocked the people in the FBO saying, “No, just a fuel stop and overnight.” The FBO folks told us it was good we called ahead, that we were lucky to get the last hotel room in town. And fortunately, the hotel was right across the highway with a Ruby Tuesday’s next door.
As we made our way out on the FBO ramp the next morning, Linda spotted a Cessna 310 with Isaiah 40:31 painted on its tail. She researched the registration and found this story: in 2003 at the age of 56, N137CM’s owner, Charlie Queen, suffered a massive stroke and spent many weeks in a hospital. His wife was told to find a nursing home for him. Linda spoke briefly by phone with Mr. Queen and there is more to his story, which we are eager to hear so we can share it here, but this miracle we know: that he can now walk again, and is putting his miracle to great use.
Linda: Arriving at Ellington just as the sun was setting on Wings Over Houston air show, we carefully taxied past break-down crews to our parking spot, marking the end of our fall foliage tour.