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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October 23, 2012 Mentors

The Liberty Gazette
October 23, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Whew! Were you glued to a TV or computer screen on Sunday, October 14, watching Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump? We were on our way to a birthday party and pulled off the freeway to watch and listen on our iPhones. Exciting, intense, and heartwarming. Not just heartwarming seeing Felix’s family, but the history and the bond between Baumgartner and Captain Joe Kittinger, who read the checklist off to Felix and coached him all the way, the man whose records Felix would break. Imagine being on the verge of attempting something only one other person has ever done, and that one person is with you through it all. Captain Joe’s amazingly reassuring voice certainly had to be a comfort, even to “Fearless Felix.”

I’m reminded of my first flight instructor, Anthony. Even though I didn’t have any fear about learning to fly, Anthony was still a comforting presence when I would become frustrated along the learning curve. There was so much to absorb, and it was all new to me. I am cursed with a trait fairly common to females, being directionally challenged. Most women navigate associating with landmarks, while the majority of men seem to have been born with a compass inside. Mike is like that. I could spin him around and point him any direction and he’d know which way he was facing and which way we need to go. Don’t bother spinning me around; it only takes one turn and I’m fumbling to find my way. I always tell him that’s what makes women better at instrument flying, because we have all these great inputs to feed us information and we don’t have to rely as much on navigational instinct. I don’t know whether any studies have been done to back that up, but it makes sense to me. With instruments giving read-outs that tell you exactly where you are and which way you’re headed the chance of getting “turned around” certainly must be significantly reduced.

Good ol’ Anthony. When the concept of an airport traffic pattern was totally foreign to me, he took me out to the parking lot of the flight school, placed markers in strategic places to represent a couple of different airports, say, Galveston and LaPorte. Late summer nights when everyone else was long gone there we’d be, Anthony and me, arms outstretched like airplane wings, flying the parking lot at Ellington Field. The asphalt below became southeast Houston as he’d give me compass headings, making me turn this way and that, then instruct me to “head toward LaPorte and enter the traffic pattern for Runway 22.” There’s a prescribed pattern for aircraft to fly and a proper way to enter the traffic pattern at airports without a control tower. That way everyone knows what to expect from each other when flying to an airport with no air traffic controller giving direction.

I finally got the hang of it thanks to Anthony, a dedicated instructor. There are some people in our lives who make a huge impact and leave us better than they found us. They’re not the people whose demise is the abyss of their self-adoration, but the ones who thoughtfully, generously, compassionately, leave traces of themselves in us, and when we examine our strength, we often find those traces to be colossal, even heroic.

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