April 12, 2011
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda:Lauren Jones is not your average eleven year old, and it’s not just because she was born on February 29 – “Leap Day.” This young lady’s passion for aviation may have been encouraged even before her first flight in her father’s Bonanza at the age of two weeks.
Her dad, Stephen, was working out of town when his wife, Christine, went into labor, signaling an early arrival of little Lauren, their first child. When Stephen got the call, he took off from Baton Rouge in his Bonanza, hurrying home to Dry Creek, a private residential airfield west of Houston. He hoped to arrive in time to take Christine to the hospital. His former flight instructor happened to be flying that morning, and was tuned in to the same radio frequency. When he heard Stephen, he said hello. Surprised to hear his instructor’s voice after many years, Stephen instinctively said, “Mama’s having a baby!” Approaching the Houston area, Stephen was surprised as Air Traffic Control cleared him directly through the busy Bush Intercontinental airspace. Flying right over Bush, he realized that ATC had heard his mission. “It was a good thing, too,” explains Lauren, who has heard the story of her birth, “because I might not have made it if Daddy hadn’t come back in time. He took my mom to the hospital, and when I came out I wasn’t breathing.” The hospital staff got Lauren breathing and took her to Texas Children’s Hospital, where she checked out okay.
We first met Lauren at the end of the Valentine’s Treasure Hunt in Lufkin, She was still 10 then, but visiting with her in the restaurant on the field at the Angelina County Airport was more like conversing with an adult. Intelligent, articulate, enthusiastic, friendly, and compassionate toward others make Lauren an easy person to be around, and you kind of forget she’s so young. After the Treasure Hunt I asked her dad if we could write a bit about Lauren, and what follows in the next couple of weeks will amaze you, we promise.
Mike: We had an opportunity to meet up with Lauren and her dad at the Young Eagles Day in Pearland. While Stephen was taking kids for rides in his Bonanza, Lauren helped with ground school, registration, socializing with visitors, and even squeezed in time for an interview. Perched in the hangar under the wing of a twin Bonanza, “T-Bone,” Lauren chatted with ease about her love of aviation.
She prefers taking the Bonanza on trips, and there’s this sparkle in her eyes when she explains, “It’s just the way we travel.” Lauren has the true soul of an aviator. It’s what gets us pumped sharing the flying experience with people. “I like taking my friends flying,” she says. “We take them sightseeing, like around the San Jacinto Monument, to Brenham for lunch, and seeing all the beautiful lights of downtown Houston at night.”
Often it’s just she and her dad, so Lauren has had a lot of time in the right seat, learning about flying the airplane. “I’ve learned how to look for airport beacons at night, and I can navigate back home from Brenham at night; it’s pretty easy, you just follow the road and look for certain landmarks.”
Linda: Lauren says, “There’s always something good happening” in aviation, and her attitude is infectious. You’ll get bit by that bug more next week.