The Liberty Gazette
December 27, 2011Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: It was a stormy day last week when eight girls, ages 8-9, climbed inside the airport fire truck. There a fireman entertained and educated the group, pushing the water cannon button blasting 750 gallons a minute in a high arch across the ramp so they could see how it works. This was the culmination of a field trip to the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport in Angleton, Brazoria County, Texas that introduced these Girl Scouts to aviation and their local airport. Their Scout leader planned the tour for the week they were out of school for Christmas recess.
Mike: Most people’s schedules are full this time of year and no other female pilots in the Houston area were available to join Linda, but in a pinch a male pilot will suffice. My schedule was booked, but Bruce Bohannon, super guy that he is, jumped in at the last minute. After setting and breaking something like 35 world records, and with superior air racing skills proven at the Reno Air Races, it would be easy to become a snob, but that’s not Bruce. He dropped everything to be there for the kids when Linda called for help.
Linda: We are fortunate to have such a highly accomplished, youth oriented pilot living in the area. He’s a great promoter of General Aviation, fabulous with kids, and his heart is totally into it. We wanted the girls to think of the possibilities; “the airplane doesn’t know whether you’re a girl or a boy.” Bruce piqued their interest when he said some of the best aerobatic pilots he knows are female.
Airport Director, Jeff Bilyeu, fully supported and took part in the event as well. An airport management professional with the highest credentials, Jeff has served in many capacities with the American Association of Airport Executives, and is respected in the industry nationwide. This Girl Scout troop got the best of the best.
With a 7,000’ runway and a new restaurant open, the airport has undergone many improvements recently, and more plans to improve services are in the works benefitting the community, the state, and country. Jeff’s involvement in the Girl Scouts’ visit shows his understanding of the importance of the airport director in public and civic events – as it should be.
Airport Customer Service Representative, Amy Moyle, started the session by telling the girls about the international women’s organization, The 99s, and introducing me. We talked about airplanes, what makes them fly, and women pilots. The girls were interested in why “airports are for people who don’t fly,” as we explored the products and services that benefit them which rely on General Aviation and local airports. Bruce shared stories of flying adventures, and together, Jeff, Bruce, and I answered many questions the inquisitive girls asked. During the hangar tour the scouts got up close to a King Air, a jet, and a helicopter, and were treated to a look inside the helicopter by one of the pilots.
At the beginning of the presentation all but one of the girls had never considered airplanes in their future. Afterward, every hand went up when we asked, “Who thinks they could learn to fly one of these?” For being a rainy, stormy day, it sure was brightened by this event.