The Liberty Gazette
Ely Air LinesBy 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.