The Liberty Gazette
January 24, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: When Bobby Bennett said to his wife, AnnElise, “If you'll go to ground school and pass your written test, I'll buy you an airplane,” AnnElise says he really meant, “If you'll get your license you can be my co-pilot,” but she quickly explains that would be a sorely mistaken thought. Frequently the Dallas area couple flies two airplanes to compete in air races because, as AnnElise says, “I insist on aviation equality.”
Mike: The Bennetts live in one of their two hangars, a grass strip runs alongside, through their 80 acre funland. This is where AnnElise took many of her flying lessons from instructor Jill Williams Shockley. The Bennett runway is oriented northeast-southwest with power lines strung just feet from the north end, meaning departures and arrivals come with less cheek-squeeze factor when taking off or landing to the north (going out to or coming in from the south). However, prevailing winds from the south bringing a screaming quartering tailwind keep AnnElise on her aviation toes.
Her first emergency landing tested her skills for real when she had only 197 hours logged. She had picked up the airplane at a shop where repairs were made for hail damage. Lesson learned: always do a positive control surface check when control surfaces have been removed. One person manipulates controls while another holds onto the control surface so the weights are not causing the movement. Had they done that they’d have known she had no elevator control. But AnnElise passed the test with flying colors. Not a scratch on her or the bird.
Linda: In anticipation of their sixth wedding anniversary Bobby had asked AnnElise what she’d like to do to celebrate. She didn’t know right away, but after attending a 99s meeting, where air race queen Pat Purcell and Pat Keefer were pitching the U.S. Air Race she had her answer: “I want to race for our anniversary!” She says Bobby “looked at me like I had a hole in my head and said, ‘You want to what? We can't do that in a 172!’” Bobby now competes in his super-fast Bonanza, and AnnElise has moved up to a Cessna 182.
So what’s the favorite piece of living room furniture of a woman who lives in a hangar? It’s not the installed-in-the-floor trampoline, nor the climbing rope, rock wall, or gymnastic rings which contribute to her tight figure. It’s “X-ray”, her C-182, of course, adorning the living room when she’s not soaring fast and free. Bobby and AnnElise eat, sleep, live, breathe airplanes and X-ray has had quite a life. Before becoming a Bennett, X-ray was a sadly abused jump plane, but since her adoption has blossomed into as a sleek a racer as a C-182 can be.
Not content to be just a pilot, AnnElise has also helped Bobby, a highly experienced and award winning aircraft mechanic, overhaul at least 10 engines at last count, and is hoping together they will build a faster airplane to race. She’s especially enjoyed racing against Louise Scudieri, also a C-182 pilot, and says, “Every time I'm taxiing out to race, the adrenaline flows, the breath quickens, but it flows faster and sharper when I'm racing Louise because we are so well matched.”
Mike: And then there’s the “man trophy.” That’ll have to wait until next week.