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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August 30, 2011 Warbirds on Parade

The Liberty Gazette
August 30, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Photo courtesy DFW Wing CAF
Linda: Lancaster, 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, is home to a busy community airport. The International Aerobatic Club has contests there and this spring the locals hosted their first air race. It’s also home to the DFW Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). This Saturday, September 3, you’re all invited to the Lancaster airport for the annual Warbirds on Parade. This year promises to be even bigger and better; just ask Charlie Wood, a man in the know. Come see WW11 Bombers, Fighters, Cargoes, Trainers, L-Birds, Communist Mig 21, 23, Hind 24, Hind 2 Helicopters, L-39's, L-29's, “and a few surprises.” There will be nearly 100 classic cars, along with military vehicle and equipment displays. Re-enactors and living history groups will take you back in time - they’ll have their communication gear and may be calling in air strikes - let the kids come and see that cell phones haven’t always been in existence. And don't miss the restored farm tractors and tractor pull, and the “Hit & Miss Engine Display.” WW11 Marine Veteran, R.V Burgin, author of "Island of the Damned" will be selling and autographing his book. His character appeared in episodes 5,6,7,8,9,10, of the HBO series, "The Pacific." They’d like a donation of $10 per car or $5 per person because it costs a lot to keep this show running.

BT15 Photo courtesy DFW Wing CAF
It’s a lot of hard work, but Charlie can’t be happier about the event’s success. They’ll be setting up all day Friday and will be back before daylight. A former DFW Wing leader, Charlie will get to the airport about 5 a.m. Saturday “and there will already be about 300 people there,” he laughs. Last year he served 85 pounds of barbeque, plus hot dogs. This year he expects to serve more. “We’ll all be dead tired but will have a smile on our face.”

R4D Photo courtesy DFW Wing CAF

What drives Charlie Wood and others like him to dedicate their time and resources? “We need to educate these children,” he says. “The CAF teaches about the sacrifices and suffering, and that freedom isn’t free. We fly exhibitions in remembrance and to honor those who flew and protected our freedom.”

 Mike: The 8,000 member CAF boasts ownership of 160 WWII airplanes, seen by at least 10 million people a year. “We give them a history lesson and these are the tools,” Charlie says.

Photo courtesy
Raymond Jeffcoat, DFW Wing CAF
He’s only 61, but he feels an obligation to an older generation. He did not serve in the military; this is his way to pay back. He’s “just a hometown boy who tries to make a difference.” One of his grandmothers worked in the North American plant where T-6s and P51s and bomber sections were built. His other grandmother worked at the Johnny Mitchell Company, a cotton-gin-builder-turned-war-ordinance maker for anti-aircraft guns (armament on ships). “The country came together. Everybody did something for the war effort and that’s why we have freedom today,” he says. So he flies in air shows and does his part to educate and honor. It’s not uncommon, but deeply meaningful, each time an elderly man walks up to Charlie and starts telling his story. “I’m privileged to hear it at the same time his family is hearing it, with a tear in his eye.”

Go to or call Charlie at (972) 287-6228. 
"Ziggy" Stinson L3 Photo courtesy DFW Wing CAF

August 23, 2011 The only way to fly

The Liberty Gazette
August 23, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Just the little unpainted Grumman Cheetah and me, winging our way back from Indianapolis following The Indy Air Race; she may be an ugly duckling now, but after a new paint job, er, make-over, she will be stunning.

The large storms we encountered en route were circumnavigatable, and when the Elyminator began to feel thirsty, she brought me to a small airport in Newport, Arkansas. Her thirst quenched, I saddled back up and we climbed out past Little Rock, contacting approach control for traffic advisories on the way into Houston. Passing east of Shreveport well above the haze layer the sun was setting, reflecting a host of hues through the prisms of raindrops and ice crystals in the lower layers of the clouds to the west. An intricate symphony for the eyes, a vast gourmet setting so awe inspiring one can’t help but want to share it. Alas, photos from a cell phone camera can’t convey what my eyes soaked in. That beautiful view of colors suspended in the atmosphere is reserved for those who escape the bonds of gravity, separated from the ground by a mile or more of air molecules, as we were, the Elyminator and I.

From wheels up at Indianapolis Executive Airport to wheels down at Ellington Field, total time to travel, including the fuel stop, was accomplished in seven hours. Not only did I marvel at the scenery, I was also not inconvenienced with having to go through a security line and being subjected to a head-to-toe search for whatever they look for. I simply loaded up, climbed in, and blasted off. Even with the high price of fuel these days, the bottom line comes out about the same as a round trip airline ticket–without the hassle and with the wondrous exhibition of God’s pageantry of color. To make the same trip by airliner would require arrival at the main airport at least an hour before departure, with likely one or two leg transfers at Chicago, Atlanta or somewhere. Add to that the time it takes for the rigmarole of checking bags and picking them up at baggage claim at the other end; one could easily spend more time journeying by airline than I did flying myself. The only direct flight offered by one airline cost more than I paid in fuel and with it I would still have had to endure the federal government’s impositions on airline passengers.

A contrasting scene from airline travel, as I taxied to the hangar a couple of friends in an adjacent hangar stopped working on their airplanes to come out and greet me and helped tuck in the Elyminator. Our version of “baggage claim” was pulling my car up to the airplane and unloading my bags. In a few minutes I was on my way home with no lines, no hassles, and for less than the price of an airline ticket. As an old Western Airlines ad used to say “It’s the only way to fly.”

Linda: And, it sure beats driving. The race in Indy went very well, especially for a first-time race, and in spite of a first-time race director. More on that another day. Until then, blue skies.

August 16, 2011 Big Reputation in a Small World

The Liberty Gazette
August 16, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: At the center of the city of Indianapolis the road forms a circle, Monument Circle, where four downtown streets provide access to make the round-about drive. In the center is a war memorial monument, and around the perimeter are a fancy restaurant, hotel, some high rise business offices, and, of course, a Starbucks. Emmitt Broadcasting takes up a fair piece of Circle real estate, including four radio stations and a magazine. It kind of reminded me of the TV stations in New York, where folks walking the circle can listen to the live broadcast and see inside through the ground level windows into the studios of WIBC Radio, the largest station in Central Indiana. The popular evening radio host, Denny Smith, invited me to join him on his show the Wednesday before The Indy Air Race, to talk about the excitement of air racing – something new to the auto racing capital of the world.

After we finished the show, my sister, niece and nephew and I went to grab coffee drinks. Enjoying the cool evening temperatures, chatting about airplanes and radio and other fun things, we noticed a group of high school aged kids go into the coffee shop. All but one, that is. One young man stood outside, and then turned to my nephew and asked him to clap twice. Good thing he did. It turns out the game was that the boy couldn’t go inside with his friends until he could get someone to clap. Twice. That silly little game opened the door to conversation. We noticed one young man was carrying a trumpet, so we asked what they were doing, where they were from.

The really nice group of kids said they were from Texas and were there to compete in a world drum corps competition.

I soon discovered they were from the San Antonio and San Marcos areas. One young man had worn his shoes out so much they had come apart at the seams, at least the full front half of them. These kids had to come up with $1,800 each for this trip. We talked about where they’d been, the competitions, and the fun they’re having, when one of them mentioned Hardin, Texas.

Two things these kids said stood out about being in Hardin in July this year. One was the sweltering heat. The other was the generous spirit of the people. As these youngsters had to earn their own way to the competition, they became impressed with the people of Hardin, who, they told us, had purchased so many t-shirts and other items from them and donated more money so that little Hardin, Texas became the one place that has supported their group more than any other place they’ve been.

Two important lessons in meeting these kids are that it’s a small world, and that a reputation can go far and wide, whether it is a person, a school, a sports team, a business, or a community. These were pleasant, friendly, polite teenagers, who were fun to visit with, and who spoke highly of one generous small town in Liberty County, Texas, that will remain in their memories for years to come.

August 9, 2011 The Indy Air Race

The Liberty Gazette
August 9, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Saturday August 13 will witness “The Indy Air Race,” a new event in Indiana. Airplanes will test their metal against the clock as they course their way around six turn points through Central Indiana on a cross-country course of 144.5 nautical miles.

So far, eighteen airplanes are registered for this weekend’s event. Traditionally, several entries come in days prior to any race as pilots nail down their personal schedules and check weather forecasts closer to race day.

If all goes well this will also be the first time our Cheetah has raced since we began our engine overhaul and aerodynamic upgrades several months ago. It still needs a paint job but thanks to our mechanical genius friend and rescuer in Crandall, Texas, it will be ready to race. Someday we may write about the challenges we’ve encountered along the way but for now, we are happy to be airborne once again.

Linda: Hosting an air race in Indy was an idea born out of conversations Mike and I had when the Chief of the Sport Air Racing League, Mike Thompson, said he would like to see the League grow to areas where air racing hasn’t been yet. Indy, my hometown, was at the top of our short list of airports that meet certain requirements for hosting an air race.

Last year at a race in the Tennessee Valley, the Chief and I discussed the idea of a race in Indy. Liking the idea he wondered if we could organize a race long distance. I felt it was possible because I have lots of family and friends (volunteers) there. A few phone calls later and great help from my mom and sister, somehow it all came together.

Among the airplanes entered are several really fast Experimental/Homebuilt aircraft. Lynn Farnsworth, a Reno air racer and war hero will lead the pack at the start in his souped-up Lancair Legacy.

We’ll be on the air on WIBC radio in Indianapolis either Wednesday or Thursday evening at 6:00pm Central time, streaming live at The host, Denny Smith, who is also a pilot, was so excited when he received an email from my sister regarding the race that he immediately scheduled us for his show – great promotion for the race, and for the League.

My sister’s hosting the pre-race party Friday night, where there will be plenty of food, socializing, and fun. A shooting range is on the property and I just ordered a large inflatable outdoor movie screen. The air race movies I bought should go over very well with this crowd.

The racers and volunteers will take a special tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the day before the race, and on race day when the airplanes enter the runway to start their take-off roll, they will be given the green flag by veteran Indy 500 race driver Bob Harkey, himself a pilot.

The hosting FBO, Montgomery Aviation, will serve a pancake breakfast and hot dogs after the race, and has discounted their fuel price for our racers. The Montgomerys have also pitched in as sponsors toward the cost of t-shirts and trophies, to supplement our main sponsor, Aerodine Composites, who has been quite generous in support of our race.

As a first-time Race Director, I’m indebted to a great bunch of volunteers, sponsors, and hosts, and am excitedly looking forward to Saturday’s race.

August 2, 2011 Texas History Fly-Ins

The Liberty Gazette
August 2, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: On the dusty, dry western edge of the Texas Hill Country sits the city of Menard, and a significant place of Texas history, the Spanish Presidio San Sabá. Built in 1757, the presidio served a three-fold purpose: to protect the nearby Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, to find the silver they’d heard about, and to guard the Spanish frontier. The Presidio is one of nine forts along the Texas Forts Trail, a recommended driving trail.

Linda: Surely you realize we’re not history experts, so this must have something to do with airplanes. We thank Elizabeth Cooper who, as a Texas Tech anthropology grad student wrote a fantastic piece on the reconstruction efforts she was involved with at the time ( Since publication of her informative online exhibit there has been more restoration work. What caught our attention was that it’s being promoted as a “Fly-In.”

During a Liberty-Dayton Chamber luncheon we explained to local business folks how valuable our airport is and inventive ways it can be used to bring people to town. Similar to our suggestions about advertising events in Liberty as fly-in destinations, like-minded advocates in Menard posted this: “Wing your way to the Frontier Fly-In, to Menard, Texas to see the restoration of the Spanish Presidio San Saba in progress.” Great marketing for the town, the restoration project, and the airport!

Mike: The presidio, located 300 yards south of Menard County Airport, was at the time of its occupation the only Spanish stronghold on an otherwise unoccupied frontier. It was the largest and most important military installation in Texas at that time, home to more than 300 Spanish soldiers and civilians. Some call it "the ruin of ruins." Elizabeth Cooper wrote, “The story of Presidio San Sabá is the story of Texas,” and invites readers to imagine soldiers practicing drills in the courtyard while herders tend cattle and farmers work nearby fields, to catch a whiff of fresh-baked bread and meat roasting on a spit, or hear children playing in the courtyard.

Those involved in the present restoration project are offering free transportation to fly-ins, inviting you to call (325-456-5994) for a private guided tour, observe the ruins as they are restored to original beauty, and see the authentic Jim “Bouie” signature carved in stone. Their fly-in invitation boasts of excellent area restaurants and sounds just downright friendly. It’s a superb example of what we encourage Liberty area businesses to do: make good use of your community airport; it’s an asset.

Linda: Another Texas history fly-in is “Flights of Our Fathers Fly-In” sponsored by the British Flying Training School Museum at Terrell Municipal Airport, September 16-18. I was there in June for an air race and can say, that museum is well worth the trip. In this year’s theme a salute to veterans honors the valor of our fallen heroes, including the ultimate sacrifice of five men from Terrell. The weekend events occur within a reunion of the men who were trained there. On September 16 there’s a hanger/dinner dance. September 17 is the fly-in with talks by Tom Killebrew, author of “The Royal Air Force in Texas,” and Dr. Calvin Spann, WWII Tuskegee Airman, static displays, and plane rides. The weekend will conclude with a Memorial Service September 18. Open to the public, drive-ins encouraged. Contact Beverly Mardis 972-524-1714, or Their website: