April 5, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: As we approach the downwind leg of the traffic pattern at Pearland Regional Airport, the two boys in the airplane with me harmoniously burst into singing “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor, 1982). In the co-pilot seat was eleven-year-old Owen Merrell of Kenefick following me through on the controls, totally enthralled with his very first foray aloft. His friend, twelve-year-old Logan Stinnett of Hardin sat in the back seat, having experienced this feat once before. I gave him his first flight in a small plane a couple years ago here in Liberty. We were airborne nearly half an hour, Owen trying his hand at the controls of the airplane. He made machine-gun sounds as he swept and bobbed about the sky over the open green pastures south of Pearland and Alvin. Now we were returning to the airport to share the wonders of flight with another youngster.
Linda: Young Eagles Day at Pearland was a huge success. Ten volunteer pilots gave 26 kids airplane rides, many of them for the first time. Owen and Logan were the only two from Liberty County. A short classroom discussion of flight followed a pancake and sausage breakfast. After the first group of twelve kids finished the classroom briefing, Mark Davis arrived from Ellington in a Czechoslovakian-built L-29 jet trainer, making a few impressive low passes, then finally landing and taxiing the jet up to the hangar for the kids to see up close. Pilots escorted their excited passengers to an airplane, and showed them how to do a pre-flight inspection. The Young Eagles listened intently and asked smart questions, and soon were strapping in, donning headsets, and smiling for their parents’ photo op. The Lone Star Squadron formation flight team arrived from Conroe in their Van’s RVs (fast and sporty airplanes), making some beautiful high speed low passes in formation. They, too, eventually landed and parked along the flight line, joining in the Young Eagles flights before heading to the classroom to discuss plans for the upcoming May 18 Galveston Air Rally.
Since our Cheetah is undergoing a major overhaul we didn’t have a plane for flying Young Eagles, but our friend Tim George flew his Cheetah in from LaPorte. We first met Tim a few years ago when he came to Flying Tigers to learn to fly. Mike was doing some part-time instructing there at the time and the two became fast friends. Lacking enough logged time to fly Young Eagles, he brought his airplane for us to fly and then helped with ground operations.
Mike: In all, I had the pleasure of introducing or re-introducing five kids to the wonders of flight. I took Logan and Owen up one more time after taking another youngster up for his first flight. This time Logan occupied the coveted co-pilot seat and did a masterful job considering the length of time since he’d had his hands on those controls.
Linda: I was eager to meet up with my young friend, Lauren Jones, too. While her dad flew Young Eagles 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 named “T-Bone,” Lauren chatted with ease about her love of aviation. We’ll bring you her story in the coming weeks.