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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September 6, 2011 Breaking Through the Clouds

The Liberty Gazette
September 6, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: “In the early days of powered flight, airplanes were made of little more than wood, fabric and primitive, unreliable motors. Pilots flew low, following roads and railroad tracks as directional guides. If lost, the pilot was forced to land and ask for directions, often from the very farmer in whose field they landed,” writes film producer, director Heather Taylor.
Heather Taylor, Executive Producer, "Breaking Through the Clouds"
Photo courtesy Heather Taylor
One of the things I get the most enjoyment out of from aviation is meeting interesting people. Aviation brings together people of diverse backgrounds. I’ve met people whose life journeys have brought them incredible accomplishments and those who are involved in fascinating activities both in and out of aviation. Such is the case with meeting Heather Taylor in June, 2010. One of a very fortunate few, I was present at the
first public showing of her film, “Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby”. It was quite an event, attended by air racers who had just completed the 2,700 mile Air Race Classic.

The 2010 race was special for Heather because it ended in Frederick, Maryland, where she received her undergraduate degree from Hood College. Her film was shown at Hood after the finish of this historic race, exactly 20 years from the date she graduated. Since the race is organized two years in advance, the timing and location were perfect and serendipitous.

DVD  cover
Phot courtesy
Heather Taylor
13 years in the making, “Breaking Through the Clouds” is a multiple award-winning documentary of the first all-women’s air race in 1929, the predecessor to the Air Race Classic.

Heather grew up in Tennessee in a family of pilots and spent countless hours at local airports. She told me, “I said, ‘God, if You give me a story I know I can make a film.’ Better watch out for what you ask for!” Sure enough, Heather found a story when she interviewed Evelyn Bryan Johnson, aviatrix extraordinaire. Evelyn was “just looking for a break from the dry cleaning business” when she saw an ad for flight lessons. After a long career, Evelyn was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame, the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame and the Kentucky and Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame; she holds the record for the most flight hours of any woman, 57,635.4 hours, and has administered over 9,000 check rides. No wonder she was such an inspiration to Heather! But she mentioned the race, and that’s when Heather knew–the race was her story to tell.
Race pilots of the First Women's National Air Derby, 1929.
Photo courtesy International Women's Air & Space Museum

She worked on it part time for 10 years, then in 2007 decided it’s now or never, left Discovery Communications and went full throttle, forming her own production company, Archetypal Images, LLC. If I listed all Heather’s film credits I’d have no room for anything else. But you would be impressed.

Heather aims to “produce films that explore and harnesses that light in the eyes of people who have found their calling in life and share that sparkle with others who are still searching to find their own passion.” The pilots featured in “Breaking Through The Clouds” are role models of this objective. They persevered and have continued to influence others, including me, over 80 years later.

Heather hopes her film will encourage each person to “take to the skies” with their own dreams, as did the women of “Breaking Through the Clouds.” Get the DVD at

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