formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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May 31, 2011 The 4G Network

The Liberty Gazette
May 31, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Often people ask us how a pilot knows things like how to land at an airport without a tower, and conditions in the air or on the ground that might affect our flight. Pilots are charged with the full responsibility of knowing “all available information” that affects their flight – all of it. So we have various ways of checking weather, temporary flight restrictions, closed runways, and much more. The Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system provides a substantial amount of information necessary for pilots, but a current NOTAM that has been heavily in the aviation news of late concerns everyone, not just pilots.

That NOTAM regards some testing being done and states, “Airspace Global Positioning System is unreliable and may be unavailable within a radius of 175nm (of the GPS location, this one Las Vegas) from the surface to 40,000 feet and above. Pilots within a 175 nautical mile radius of the Las Vegas area are highly encouraged to report anomalies to the GPS signal during this test, 0700-1300 daily.”

So what’s going on? Well, it’s Washington. One government agency is at odds with another. Backed by the White House, the FCC recently issued a conditional waiver to a company called LightSquared allowing them to build and test a new wi-fi cell phone network transmitting on a radio band that is likely to interfere with the signals received from the GPS satellite network used for navigation and communications by aircraft, ships, the military, and even the GPS unit in your car. This is the “4G” network being promoted by cell phone companies; and interference with aircraft navigation has already been reported. The 3G network does not interfere with the GPS signals because it uses different technology and radio bands.

The waiver given to LightSquared has industry members and government officials leery of this “highly unusual” FCC action; and the steamrollering is fully supported by the White House.

Linda: GPS was developed by the military to enable aircraft to be guided without the need for ground based navigational aids. They own it but they have made it available to the civilian world. Russia, the European Union and even China have launched their own satellites into space. All these systems have the potential for being affected by one or more of the 40,000 planned antennas of this new 4G network. If the proposed wireless network is proven to cause interference and then allowed to continue development, small airports like Liberty’s would no longer have instrument approaches available for pilots to land during bad weather.

Politics are a devilish thing (that matches my opinion of most politicians) but a guy named Mike Turner who chairs the House Armed Services Committee on Strategic Forces has criticized the FCC for issuing this waiver. He told them that when it comes to GPS, they must consult with the Defense Department on any effects, and he included a requirement in the National Defense Authorization Act soon to be voted on that “Congress be notified of any widespread interference to GPS caused by a commercial communications service.” How would you like to be on an airliner that suddenly loses all navigation, and is in the clouds, zero visibility, on an instrument approach? They’re playing with people’s lives and it is our hope that wisdom will prevail and keep our skies, our national defense, and our way of life safe from those driven to control and destruct.

May 24, 2011 Homer the Airport Bird

The Liberty Gazette
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: The town of Courtland referred to in the following story is in Alabama home of the late-October Tennessee Valley Air Race, Speed Dash and Punkin’ Chunkin' Contest (where the pumpkin I tossed totally missed the port-a-potty). This story originated from airline pilot Chris Murphy, who, along with his cousin, Jim, hosted that race. In January this year Chris countered the cold drizzle and darkness with a little off-season humor within the Sport Air Racing League.

“I'm at Courtland for a few days helping out and saw a funny thing today,” Chris posted on our Sport Air message board. “We're all in the office and I hear a pecking noise on the door that goes into the hangar. Jim says to open the door, Homer wants out. So I open the door and into the office walks Homer the pigeon. He walks right past about four of us to the outside door and waits for someone to open the door and let him out. He walks out through the office and then comes back later in the afternoon and pecks on the glass door to get back in. I guess he has taken up residence. I told Jim when Homer tells his buddies about his digs he'll have a whole flock of them.”

League founder and Chairman, Mike Thompson, wanted to know if Homer the Pigeon might be SARL’s future mascot. Was he “a racing Homer? Clipped-wing Homer? Homer in a pylon turn?” Air race veteran Pat Purcell (that’s Patricia), chimed in with suggestions on photo-shopping a good picture of Homer, to which Chris obliged – Homer in goggles and cloth pilot helmet.

A couple days later Chris posted this update: “I am a little worried about Homer. He went flying this morning and didn't get a briefing. It’s Instrument conditions here and favorable for icing.” We held our collective breath awaiting further word on Homer, who eventually arrived safe and sound. Not too long after, Homer brought home a lady friend.

Mike: After recent deadly storms in the southwest, Chris, a self-proclaimed weather geek, said, “I have never seen anything like what was happening in Alabama yesterday! I sat at the computer watching Doppler radar overlaid on a map, feeding info via text message to my friends there who had no electricity and weren't getting any info from local authorities. After the initial squall went through almost every storm cell was tornadic. A very large tornado went just east of the airport at Courtland and unfortunately there was loss of life associated with that storm. The airport sustained some damage; one airplane has major damage, and the FBO hangar was damaged by flying debris. The airport is covered with debris that rained down. Homer made it back into the hangar before the storms hit but his lady friend was a casualty.”

They deployed an Aero Commander photo mapping airplane in support of FEMA to assess the damage. The storm that wiped out Tuscaloosa actually formed over the Russellville airport (which is Turn Two in our race there) and then moved east into Tuscaloosa.

We’re glad Homer made it home okay, but saddened by the loss of life. One of our fellow aviators is collecting and airlifting needed supplies into the area. Now that's a real homer.

May 17, 2011 International Learn to Fly Day

The Liberty Gazette
May 17, 2011

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: This Saturday, May 21 is International Learn to Fly Day. Yep, there really is such a thing, and yes, it is international.

The plan for an annual Learn to Fly Day was announced at EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh in 2009 as a cooperative effort set in motion by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) of pilots, companies, governments, and organizations in countries around the world to raise interest in flying and encourage current pilots to get others involved in aviation. We have already seen the incredible success of the flight introduction program Young Eagles since 1992, thanks to EAA, and this brings us another way to introduce the world of aviation to more folks.

The EAA is asking the entire aviation community to participate; from individual pilots to flight schools, from flying clubs to aviation organizations, from FBO’s to the rest of the aviation industry. Everyone is encouraged to get involved on International Learn to Fly Day.

For pilots, it can be as easy as taking someone flying or as elaborate as hosting a fly-in. Our goal is simple: introduce someone new to aviation. Take a trip down to Ellington Field and talk with some of the flight instructors at Flying Tigers. They’ll be happy to answer all your questions about learning to fly.

Weather permitting, we’ll be in Indianapolis this weekend to meet with volunteers and fly and evaluate the course Mike designed for the Indy Air Race. It’s shaping up to be a big event in a town that loves racing of any kind. The county airport nearest my sister’s house will be hosting International Learn to Fly events that day also, and have asked us to stop in and “share the spirit–take someone flying.”

Learning to fly, says EAA, “immerses you in new sensations and allows you to conquer exciting challenges. It changes how you perceive yourself and what you know you can accomplish, opens up an escape from the two dimensional world, and takes you to a place with new perspectives. Suddenly, distances shrink and you are no longer limited by your cares, concerns and duties on the ground. Learning to fly frees you to explore the world and expand your horizons–the distance is your decision.”

Mike: Barrington Irving comes to mind. Now in his mid-twenties, he was the youngest person ever, and the only black person to fly solo around the world. Barrington heads up an organization that encourages youngsters to follow their dreams, called “Experience Aviation.” Growing up in Miami, Barrington thought the only way for a young black man to get out of his circumstances would be through a football scholarship. But one day an airline pilot walked into the Christian bookstore where he worked after school, offered to show young Barrington the cockpit of an airplane, and from there, his life took an amazing turn. I ran into him while at a fuel stop in Raleigh-Durham and had a nice chat. It’s efforts like these, by people like Barrington, and groups such as EAA that open doors some people never realized were there.

Linda: Many an aviator quotes Leonardo da Vinci, “When once you have tasted flight you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Here’s to blue skies.

May 10, 2011 Lauren Jones, Young Aviatrix part 5

The Liberty Gazette
May 10, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The only thing left to change on the Jones family Beechcraft Bonanza was the paint, and little Lauren kept her hopes that the airplane she was used to would not be changed any more. Here we go with the fifth and final (for now) segment on this precious young aviatrix.

“I really liked it the way it was,” eleven-year old Lauren says with the fondness of a friend. “It was orange and brown. I could tell it looked like the ‘70’s because I’ve seen some stuff from the ‘70’s.” An air traffic controller liked it too. At least someone sided with her. “He said it reminded him of when he was learning to fly.”

She cried when the airplane was taken to the paint shop, because after all, this was the last thing that had not been changed. But she knew the guys at the paint shop would take good care of it. She took pictures as keepsakes of the old familiar paint scheme she had come to love, saying, “I knew there was no way I could change their minds.”

While her beloved Bonanza was at the paint shop, she says, “I needed some comforting. So I went flying with our neighbor, Mr. Henry, in his Bonanza.”

Now, says Lauren, “the airplane has had so many changes.” Like the wingtips. “Dad bought them on eBay and he let me stay up late to watch the bidding because someone else was bidding against us, as Dad really wanted those wingtips. Finally, he just put in a high amount. I guess the other person gave up,” she says, smiling so proudly of her dad. The new tips, Lauren explains, “make the airplane lighter, so it can carry a little more weight.”

What’s it like to grow up in an airpark? “It’s really fun. The fly-ins are fun at Dry Creek, but it is starting to attract more people. We do Young Eagle flights.”

And what else does she enjoy flying? “Helicopters are okay. I kind of like them because you can go straight up.”

I am convinced that Lauren’s attitude, her charm, and encouragement from the older people who surround her will contribute to great accomplishments in the future. The young lady knows the ropes when it comes to hangar flying. As she puts it, “we just sit around and talk about the neatest airplanes.” It’s not the kind of thing one usually hears from an eleven-year old girl.

Mike: It will be awhile before Lauren is ready for college, but when that time comes, she is hoping her dad will have another airplane, so she can have the Bonanza. “It’s the airplane I’ve flown in all my life and it’s very special to me,” she articulates diplomatically, “but I know it’s special to Dad too – he’s used to it, so I might have to be the one to have a new airplane because he might have a hard time [parting with it].”

Lauren is filled with a wonderful spirit and whatever her future, airplanes and aviation will continue to be part of it. For her, the skies are unlimited and the horizons endless.

May 3, 2011 Lauren Jones, Young Aviatrix part 4

The Liberty Gazette
May 3, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

We’re on the fourth installment of our chat with eleven year old aviatrix Lauren Jones, whose cheerful nature is infectious. Could there be anything about flying that’s not just perfect for her? Well, yes. Flying over and seeing damage from Hurricane Katrina made her sad. But closer to home, she misses her sister, Amy, who will soon turn 10. Lauren and Amy are very close, but Amy prefers other activities. “I really miss her when Dad and I go out flying. We have so much fun and I wish she was with us.” But Lauren understands that people have different interests. During the Young Eagles day in Pearland, Amy opted to attend a birthday party, while Lauren declined invitations to two birthday parties with her best friends Hallie and Trina, in favor of working at the Young Eagles fly-in with her dad. She shared a story of when the whole family flew to Little Rock to see grandparents at Christmas time. “I sit in the back when Amy comes along, because she doesn’t like it that much. So I hold her hand, and help her. One time we had a little turbulence, and all the boxes of Christmas presents that were stacked behind us toppled over on us.” Bumpy air is the kind of stuff Lauren takes in stride because it’s just part of flying. “One time we had some turbulence and it was kind of like being on a roller coaster,” she says with a grin. “When we dropped down everything came flying up – even the dirt we had tracked in when we got in the airplane!”

Linda: Looking out the hangar, past the picnic tables and chairs, the grill with hotdogs and hamburgers, and parents waiting for eager kids in their first flight, Lauren gazed at her family’s Bonanza, into which Dad (Stephen) was loading another child for a Young Eagles flight. With a nod toward her plane, she said, “You know, our Bonanza hasn’t always looked like this.” Pen in hand, I knew there were more stories coming from our young friend.

“They were rebuilding the engine when I was in Kindergarten,” she says. I sensed a little melancholy but wasn’t immediately sure why. Clearly the new engine was a good thing. “I got to change the oil,” she says proudly. “When the new engine came, that was a big day for me, because you know in Kindergarten you don’t have homework,” so she could be around to watch. She was even able to engage Amy in the fun by playing in the box and the Styrofoam peanuts. And being near Dad is a significant part of what draws her. “Dad built a cubicle in the hangar for me so I could sit there and draw and be close to him while he put in the new engine.”

Next came a new interior. As she began to talk, I heard the disappointment she had experienced. “The seats were already nice, the interior was nice, but I guess it needed to be replaced. But when it went down for that, it was down for three months – and that,” Lauren says with heart, “was hard on me.”

Lauren is a precious young lady, full of adventure and spunk, kindness and compassion. Check in next week for the final part of this series on a unique girl with a passion for flying. Until then, blue skies.