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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February 28, 2012 Airports are for people who don't fly

The Liberty Gazette
February 28, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: A mile of highway will take you a mile, but a mile of runway can take you just about anywhere. We’re seeing improvements at the Liberty Airport which is exciting given where we were just five years ago when it was a struggle for some to realize what a gem of an asset we have here, and how underutilized it's been. It is no small matter that City Manager Gary Broz has some experience with airports and understanding of their value. As with any industry, there's no shortage of outsiders, who without knowledge of the industry will criticize, manipulate, demonize, or even attempt to sabotage. We've said it before and despite naysayers, people who only contribute for their own glory, or politicians who once thought they could quietly “get rid of it,” we'll continue to wave the banner for this little airport in Liberty, because it’s an asset that exists to serve the community: Airports are for people who don't fly.
Mike: Why is the Liberty Airport such an important asset? Its importance is found locally, statewide, and nationally. Although our airport does not serve commercial airlines, we do not live in a bubble. Just imagine our highway system. Consider all the on-off ramps taking travelers from the main arteries for transportation to their final destinations. What if there were no on-off ramps? What if interstate highways only allowed access to major hubs? Our ground travel would then be limited to places such as Dallas, Chicago, L.A., and New York. Imagine the traffic jams if there were only these few off-ramps that all traffic must use. Now consider a national emergency of any sort and these being the only ways to get needed supplies and personnel to the scene. Help might be a long time in coming, if ever. This is what would happen if we similarly limited out national airspace system.

Our airport is considered by the FAA as a critical member of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, or NPIAS, a 10-year plan continually updated and published by the FAA, listing public use airports and their development programs. The needs identified in the System Plan are considered to be in the national interest, and are classified as significant to the country. The FAA’s long list of objectives includes that airports in the system “should support national objectives for defense, emergency readiness, and postal delivery,” and should provide as many people as possible with convenient access to air transportation, “typically not more than 20 miles travel to the nearest NPIAS airport” and that the entire airport system “should help air transportation contribute to a productive national economy and international competitiveness.”

Linda: The Post Office and two world wars built our nation’s airports, and with today’s fast-moving society we need more, not fewer community airports. We need more access to areas beyond those few major cities, because most of the population lives outside those congested places. This is vital to understanding why our airport’s single runway is important on a national scale. It allows us access to a world that would otherwise restrict us from economic growth and vital time-sensitive services. So when you hear us say, “Airports are for people who don’t fly,” as my sister’s Pa-in-law says, “Pay attention!”

February 21, 2012 The Business Advantage

The Liberty Gazette
February 21, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: You often read here about fun places we fly, or people using airplanes for charity or sport, or about significant historical events in which flying is the focus, and it has always been with the idea of showing how aviation benefits us all. Yes, there is the fun part, but aviation is also an efficient and productive means of transportation. That’s why the most successful businesses use business aircraft.

Unfortunately, business aviation has been burdened with an unrealistic image, painted as luxurious, excessive and unnecessary in mainstream media. Overcoming public misconceptions has become essential work for business owners, airports, and the aviation industry as a whole. But, says Paula Williams of Aviation Business Consultants, “companies willing to embrace the controversy will find ways to weather the storms that keep the competition in the hangar.”

Mike: The efficiency and extended range of reachability is attractive: being able to conduct business in three cities in one day and return home in time to get enough rest to go out and do it again the next day. For example, an electrician from out of town who flies in to the Liberty airport to work here in Liberty. Business owners, consultants, engineers, technicians, sales representatives, and many others make use of the Liberty Airport to conduct business. These are the people who keep our country moving. These are the people who make the best use of their time, increasing their efficiency and profitability. Deals may be made on a golf course, but the real work is done in the office, and business aircraft often serve as airborne offices. When moving from one meeting to the next, business can be conducted en route in a confidential environment.

The fact is, Liberty Municipal Airport, like over 5,000 similar airports throughout the country, multiplies the number of places one can travel in a small plane over airlines by a factor of nearly 10. Airlines only serve about 600 U.S. airports and you have to allot time for the drive, “security” screening, loading, and lack of privacy, making airline travel inefficient and less profitable for many businesses when compared with point-to-point travel with their own aircraft. The businessperson pilot who has access to any of the other 8,000+ private landing facilities increases efficiency that much more.

Linda: In their report, “Business Aviation: An Enterprise Value Perspective” (2009), NEXA Advisors concluded that: for the largest public companies in America, those that use business aircraft consistently outperform those that do not; business aviation provides a unique competitive benefit to America’s businesses, both nationally and internationally, expressed through greater shareholder and enterprise value; and business aircraft users are overwhelmingly represented among the most innovative, most admired, best brands, and best places to work. They dominate the list of those companies strongest in corporate governance and responsibility.

NEXA’s further studies of small and medium-sized businesses (2010) examined key drivers of enterprise value, revenue growth, profit growth, and asset efficiency. Their analysis showed that likewise among smaller companies those that use business aviation consistently outperform non-users. In other words, says NEXA, “the use of a business aircraft is a sign of a well-managed company.”

Mike: The competitive edge would not be possible without the use of personal and company-owned aircraft, and without the essential network of airports. We’ll examine that network next week. Till then, blue skies.

February 14, 2012 Winning - The Man Trophy

The Liberty Gazette
February 14, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The competition was stiff and with only five races to go in the 2010 air race season AnnElise Bennett had to make every one, but her mother’s days were winding down, and she had to be there for her. She declined the first-place points in Mesquite, wanting the National Championship to be hers fair and square.

AnnElise: I spent almost every day with Mom in May, June and July, leaving only to go race, with her blessing. She was eager to hear how each race went, and, even as her words became fewer and fewer, she always reminded me that I needed to “go and get that big trophy.” She passed away two weeks before the Great Canadian Air Rally in August. Flying my Cessna 182 to Canada with a side trip to Niagara Falls was the Good Fly and change of scenery I needed.

Races in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, Sherman, Texas, and Courtland, Alabama all went according to the Man Trophy Plan. Going into the final race in Taylor, Texas there were at least half a dozen racers over about a 50-point spread going for three trophies. Depending on how many airplanes showed up in each class and how each of the top racers performed, it was a nail-biter to the very last airplane launched and landed. Complicating my situation, a new racer in a 182 arrived at Taylor. This would be the final obstacle between me and the Man Trophy! I do believe that was the most nervous I’d ever been before a race, because beating or being beaten by another airplane in my class was a 10-point difference. Being neck and neck with so many other (male) racers, I needed every point I could get.

One of my stiffest points competitors, Jason Rovey in his RV-8, had seven airplanes in his class. If he did well in this last race he could earn 60 bonus points. As new racers are prone to do, the new fellow in the 182 chose to take a more leisurely pace around the course than I, so when the final results were posted, I was awarded my usual second-place points, behind the fellow in the Cirrus, but ahead of the new racer for the 10 bonus points.

I had managed to survive one of the hardest years of my life, race in ten air races, winning one with Louise Scudieri and losing one to her, and finish 20 points ahead of Jason, good enough for the 2010 Sport Air Racing League Bronze National Championship! Yes, I got silly with my Man Trophy and carried it everywhere – to the party, to bed with me, and even seat belted in the back seat of my trusty steed, “X-ray,” for the ride home.

When my personal results were tallied, I’d inevitably lost my mom (too early), but what I gained in great flying experiences, wonderful new friends, self-confidence with the personal satisfaction of setting a huge goal and ultimately accomplishing that goal in the midst of family tragedy proved that I am making the most of every opportunity, living life to the fullest, and I am okay. That’s what my mom wanted. I think she would be very proud.

Mike: Bobby Bennett won the 2011 SARL Gold National Championship and AnnElise won the Silver National Championship, still the only female pilot on the podium. 2012 is going to be an exciting year!

February 7, 2012 AnnElise, Squeege, and the Quest for the Man Trophy

The Liberty Gazette
February 7, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Since its inception in 2007 all season point winners in the Sport Air Racing League were men. So AnnElise Bennett set her sights on what she calls the “Man Trophy,” vowing to claim one for her own. Trophies for the most accumulated points are awarded at the last race each year. In her rookie year AnnElise finished 13th in points out of over 100 racers, winning second place in her class. A fellow flying a Cirrus won the First Place Overall National Champion Trophy. AnnElise says that giant wood trophy “made the angels sing in my head, ‘ooohhh, girl, you gotta get one of "those!’” No female pilot had before been to the National Championship podium. There are no monetary prizes, we race for trophies and bragging rights. For AnnElise, that trophy, those bragging rights were priceless in the male-dominated world of aviation. The only way she’d have a chance at the top spot would be to race as many races in the season as possible, accumulating points.

AnnElise: Over the next few weeks, I worked on the Man Trophy Plan in my head. Since we couldn’t afford to go to every race in two airplanes I proposed in 2010 we would fly my airplane to as many of the far away races as we could manage, so I could win a Man Trophy, and 2011 would be Bobby’s year. It was crucial to my goal to do it by myself, in my airplane, so that I was solely responsible for winning (or losing) that big, beautiful piece of wood – and the aforementioned priceless bragging rights.

Linda: But AnnElise’s mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and early in 2010 her health took a turn for the worse. She wasn’t afraid of dying, but feared how her death would affect friends and family. She wanted them to live life to the fullest, and AnnElise knew that meant grabbing every experience and adventure she could, to show her mother she would be okay.

AnnElise: Mom was hospitalized several times. My sister and I took turns spending 24-hour shifts with her. And while she wasn’t an “airplane person,” she appreciated that I was, and in spite of declining health she encouraged me not to miss a single race.

2010 started out according to the trophy plan, with races in Taylor, Sherman, and Plainview, Texas; and Cecil County, Maryland. The next race, in Mesquite, would be the fourth time “X-ray” and I raced against my friend Louise Scudieri and her bird, “41Mike.” We start in speed-order, fastest first, and because my speeds had been faster than hers, I took off before she did. We were neck-and-neck around the course, and every time I called a turn, she called her turn, closer and closer, and by the time we crossed the finish line, she’d managed to creep up on me, finishing just seconds behind me – but that’s all it takes.

Mike: Louise won in Mesquite, and AnnElise congratulated her for a very tight race. After the race, however, confusion about mileage and times brought adjustments to the final standings, placing AnnElise in first place. In view of her quest for the Man Trophy, she needed those points, but she had heard Louise’s turn point radio calls and knew her rival was the winner. Being a true competitor, AnnElise declined the first-place points. If the National Championship was to be hers, it would be hers fair and square. We’ll tell you next week what happened. Until then, blue skies.