The Liberty GazetteEly Air Lines
February 14, 2012
February 14, 2012
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: 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!