The Liberty Gazette
October 2, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: We’re finally getting a break from south Texas summertime heat, New England will soon be showing off her glorious colors, and the fly-in calendars are filling up as we enter my favorite season. This is the time of year when there are so many aviation events that it’s hard to decide which ones to attend.
A couple of weekends ago we had a choice of three fly-ins within an hour’s flight. We opted for the 23rd annual “Under the Wire” fly-in in Louise, Texas, just a smidgen past El Campo along Highway 59. Robbie Vajdos invites the whole town of Louise and anyone who wants to fly in to his nearly 3,000-foot-long turf strip for a grand party at the Flying V Ranch. Campers can come out on Friday and enjoy the festivities through Saturday. The Louise High School Band sells concessions and area clubs and organizations are invited to benefit from the huge crowd.
A fabric guy by trade, Robbie’s work on vintage aircraft, such as Stearmans, has won him awards, prestige, and a reputation as the guy to go to for restoration of fabric-covered airplanes. He teaches people to fly these planes too, and he’s also a heck of a nice guy, generous and community-oriented. When my friend Dianna located the 1942 Waco UPF-7 biplane her grandfather once owned she took it to Robbie for restoration, and then was taken under his wing to learn to fly it.
Mike: As we approached the Flying V we saw two Stearmans doing fly-bys and a group of Vans RVs in formation flight. It took a while to fit into the traffic pattern but eventually we did, and found a parking spot off to the side of the very well-maintained grass runway, arriving just in time for lunch. Tents pitched next to adventure-seeking tail-dragger airplanes, such as Piper Cubs, Cessna 170s and Aviat Huskys, were a sign of some of the fun we missed the night before. A friend who saw us land called my cell and directed us to a picnic table under a large shade tree on what could be considered the equivalent of the 50-yard line, but this prime spot was for watching airplanes. In the cool shade on a beautiful day we joined several friends beside the huge congregation of vintage biplanes, many that were giving rides, and watched as pilots did touch-and-go’s and formation fly-overs, at the fly-in named for the utility wires which used to cross the middle of the runway but were taken down a few years ago and buried underground.
In the afternoon our host conducted a briefing for the flour bombing and spot landing contests. Armed with three flour bombs (flour-filled “regulation” brown paper bags) we took off in the second of three groups, four or five planes to a group, each of us trying to hit the target laid out on the runway centerline below, one bomb per pass. After dropping our third bomb we flew one more circuit in the traffic pattern, and on this final round aimed to touch down exactly on a designated spot, or hopefully closer than anyone else. We tested our bombardier and pilot skills, and were all smiles, all day, heading back to Ellington in the waning light of the setting sun.