April 26, 2011
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Retired airline pilot and U.S. Air Force Colonel Gale Haskins has a few fun airplanes to fly, including a Stearman and a PT-19, which he brought out to the “Hope Flies” fly-in, in Liberty a few years ago. I used to work with Gale, who is a neighbor of Lauren Jones and her family at Dry Creek (airpark). Lauren, a fifth-grader, was especially proud of her fly-in community when Gale and several of her other neighbors joined forces to fly the “Missing Man” formation over her school on Veteran’s Day. She’s very fond of Col. Haskins, and if you’ve been reading our Lauren stories, you know she’s one incredible young lady herself. She’s taxied in the PT-19 with Col. Haskins, and he has taken her flying in his Stearman, which she loves the best. In fact, when Gale had his Stearman for sale, the young aviatrix had an opinion on that: “I didn’t want him to sell it; it’s so fun. He almost did, but I’m glad he changed his mind.”
“We had to move the mailboxes,” Lauren explains with empathy, “so Colonel Haskins could taxi his Stearman across the bridge over the (not-so-dry) creek to his hangar. When he took me flying the first time, he asked if I had bugs in my teeth. I said no, so he asked, ‘You’re not smiling?’” Giggling at the memory she says, “I told him I was smiling, but thankfully there was a windshield keeping the bugs from getting in my teeth.” As they taxied back over the creek to his hangar, Col. Haskins asked Lauren if she’d brought her fishing pole, to which she replied with quick wit, “You really should keep some spares in here. Then you could just throw out your rod and drag it in the creek as you taxi by.”
Linda: Lauren’s bright smile beams out of her whole being. Her eyes sparkle when she speaks of friends and aviation, and in particular, of Gale Haskins. “Col. Haskins was a hurricane hunter, and he has lots of cool stuff in his hangar. I really like him – he has influenced my flying a lot.” Of course her family and neighbors also encourage Lauren, but she has a special friendship with Col. Haskins, and her compassion, unusual for her age, really shows. Rather than dismiss an older person with hearing loss, she says with a smile, warmth and sincerity, “I can understand why he has a hard time hearing, now that I’ve flown in his Stearman.”
The young lady even has a sense of civic duty. Dry Creek residents share responsibilities of maintaining their airpark, and before Lauren came along the volunteers were all adults. Recently, however, she began to change that. “I’m on the Nominating Committee,” she says proudly with the cutest smile. “I go to all the airport meetings and when they asked for volunteers for the committee I raised my hand. At first all the adults laughed, but I just kept my hand up, and pretty soon they stopped laughing.” Lauren convinced them she was the one for the job, and now she is responsible for matching the right people with jobs to be done, such as taking care of that creek. Her knack for understanding others makes her perfect for that position.
While not everything is perfect in Lauren’s world, her attitude sure is, as you’ll see next week. Until then, blue skies.