The Liberty Gazette
December 7, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: The photo of a man hangs on the wall of a small office in a small building at Ellington Field. The first thing you notice is the broad smile. It dominates the picture of the man and the Cessna 150 he towers over. Long, dark locks, common in the 1970s, date the picture, but it’s the smile that radiates.
Linda: Robert and Helene McCorvey have owned and operated Flying Tigers Flight School for about five years. Purchasing Fletcher Aviation at Hobby they continued operating out of that airport for more than three years before damage from Hurricane Ike caused them to relocate. About that time Cliff Hyde was ready to retire and sell his second-generation Cliff Hyde Flying Service at Ellington. The time was right for Cliff, and for Robert and Helene, combining the two legacy flight schools (and over 100 years of service) in the greater Houston area under the leadership of a very enthusiastic entrepreneur.
Business has grown, adding training under contract for aviation programs at Lee College and Sterling High School, a Houston magnet school. Robert joined the Houston Aviation Alliance and was elected president in 2008. And whenever we have seen him he has always had that smile, and the willingness to drop what he’s doing to help someone else.
Mike: Often I have walked into Flying Tigers and wandered into Robert’s office just to chat, always welcomed to a comfy sofa–the same sofa upon which he sat when chatting with Maybelle Fletcher from whom he bought his first flight school. Maybelle laughs, “Robert came in one day, sat on the sofa and asked me, ‘Do you think I’m crazy for wanting to own a flight school?’” Maybelle shot back, “That’s easy! Yes!” But Robert has loved airplanes and flying as long as I have; he started flying in 1974 and never stopped. Owning a flight school was always his dream, even when he was playing in a Beatles band, even when was working in his father’s sheet metal fabrication business which he eventually bought and later sold to his brother. We spoke of many things during our chats, one was about our faith in Jesus Christ, the center of why Robert is so enthusiastic about life.
Linda: Thinking his asthma was acting up, and then suspecting pleurisy, Robert learned in September he had mesothelioma. In the remainder of his time here he ministered to those who came and sought to minister to him. The night before Thanksgiving Robert McCorvey moved to Heaven. His last audible words, “Thank you, Jesus,” remind me of the graceful surrender modeled by Pastor Jimmie Clemmons. As the huge crowd gathered to honor Robert, his three grown children stood tall in the Lord, firm in their faith, proclaiming the love of their dad, and the love of our Father. God was glorified at his memorial service, and if it’s possible, Robert’s smile is even bigger now.
Mike: At the end of the service everyone walked outside Houston’s First Baptist Church to watch the Lone Star RV squadron fly overhead in formation, three passes, with smoke on. Their final pass, the “missing man,” honored the aviator whose life has enriched many. We didn’t lose Robert, we know exactly where he is; he hasn’t “gone west,” he’s moved to Heaven where he soars. And through his family his legacy and his dream, Flying Tigers, will continue.