The Liberty Gazette
September 25, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: “Out of the blue of the western sky comes SKY KING!” Those words were spoken over 50 years ago by Mike Wallace, who rung up a long career in radio and television, much of it on 60 Minutes. But back then, his deep and authoritative voice announcing the start of Sky King was my call to duty every Saturday morning to pay attention to the black and white picture of a twin engine airplane swooping down across a dry lake, then flying right toward me, buzzing overhead with the best view the TV cameras could give. Nabisco sponsored the show and their cookie advertisements sang, “Reach for Nabisco – Reach, Padner!” Cowboys, the West, and airplanes; Sky King, his niece Penny, the Songbird, Grover City and the Flying Crown Ranch were important to a seven-year-old kid. The show fed the great sense of adventure, anticipation and wonder in a lot of little boys, and probably some girls, too. I wonder how many pilots today can trace their passion for flight to Sky King.
Beginning in the 1940s as a radio show, it was later was adapted for the new media, television. Watching our collection of episodes I’ve recognized many of the places it was filmed, such as the opening scene. Are you old enough to remember that? It was a dry lake – Lucerne Dry Lake bed, not far from Apple Valley, California. The Flying Crown Ranch was actually the Apple Valley Inn, once owned by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Many of the scenes at the airport of the fictional town of Grover, Arizona were filmed at Whiteman Airpark just north of the Hollywood-Burbank Bob Hope Airport. Vasquez Rocks State Park was where a lot of the ground scenes were made. Big Bear Lake and Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains were backdrops for Sky’s Cessna 310, “Songbird,” as she made turns to landing on “the airstrip just behind the hill.”
Schuyler “Sky” King (played by Kirby Grant) was a hero in every sense of the word because he rescued us from obscurity and taught us right from wrong as we rode along in his adventures. Does any program on the tube today do that?
Linda: Mike indeed has fond memories of those old television shows. Now reality shows being the in-thing, Ice Pilots and Flying Wild Alaska have been fairly successful, and several Internet podcasts have replaced what would have been broadcast on radio many years ago. But most of today’s podcasts are created for pilots. Enter Mike Landry, host of Houston’s 950 AM radio, Hangar Talk, a new show with big plans. Landry, a helicopter student pilot, is bringing aviation back to radio in a whole new way with his Sunday morning show. With the help of co-host Terry Sonday, a flight instructor, the pair brings interesting guests from every facet of aviation imaginable, and takes calls from listeners during the two-hour live broadcast. They’re not just targeting pilots, but anyone interested in aviation.
Landry has hosted home improvement shows for many years, and when he finally found the time and finances to take flying lessons it was only natural the very animated and enthusiastic new pilot would have to take his hangar talk to the air waves. We’re glad he has, and expect you’ll be reading more about it here.