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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December 25, 2012 A gift

Liberty Gazette
December 25, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: I had a long but important trip ahead of me. My first fuel stop would be Memphis, and I looked forward to lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years. Then on to Cincinnati to see some “Grands” (I later learned that I landed right behind singer Alan Jackson…oh, so that’s why there were groupies at the airport).

Myles, now 10, was born with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, better known as “the boy in the bubble disease.” He has no functioning immune system, a disease so rare it took a year after his first illness at five months before getting a diagnosis. Two previous bone marrow transplants failed, and while preparing for the third try, cancer popped up in the way again. Lymphoma. Second time. But that’s treatable, and only postponed the transplant. Meanwhile, supportive head-shaving parties held by friends and family around the country ended up in a nice YouTube video, “Shaved Heads for Myles,” with “Stand by Me” sung by Indiana University’s a cappella group Straight No Chaser. And we sent thank-you cards and a Superman cape to our hero, the anonymous young man who donated his healthy bone marrow to save my grandson’s life.

Our family takes turns helping during these times by either staying with Myles in the hospital or with his two young siblings at home while my son-in-law is at work. I enjoy both options, but there’s something special about staying with Myles. Between treatment interruptions we do school work, bible study, build Legos and watch movies – lots of movies, like Red Tails, Spiderman, and The Avengers, which we saw over Thanksgiving. I think he picked Red Tails just for me.

I admire my daughter for the medical warrior she is for Myles, and the great mommy she is to all three. Changing doctors for the third transplant was a wise choice; Myles has been discharged from the hospital several months earlier than expected. While the first 100 days post-transplant are critical, he’s doing remarkably well – well enough to be in isolation at home rather than in-patient.

He was well enough even before discharge to get 4-hour passes. The day after Thanksgiving we went to Lunken Municipal Airport on a pass. Little Princess Caroline stayed behind with Mommy, and I took Myles and four-year-old Liam out to the airplane and strapped them in, explaining everything I was going to do so they’d understand what they were experiencing. Since we’d just watched Red Tails we imagined we would shoot down an enemy if we saw one in the sky. We did several touch-and-go’s, staying in the traffic pattern around the airport because Myles can’t really go anywhere yet. We looked for his doctor’s house in the neighborhoods below and saw the Little Miami and Ohio rivers flowing along side the airport. And I saw him smile. Not just from his lips, but from his whole being beamed this happiness, as those big eyes gazed out the window, taking in the great view from aloft.

It thrills my soul to have been with him when he felt well enough to go up; an indescribable gift for which I will always be grateful, and it gave him a unique story to tell when we returned to his hospital room that afternoon. One of the nurses asked, “How was your pass today?” Myles held his composure like a man and said, “Good. I went flying with Nanny.”

December 18, 2012 Stand by for re-route

Liberty Gazette
December 18, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Years ago when a pilot ventured by the field where fourth-grader Charles Queen flew remote control airplanes and suggested a visit to the local airport, Charles discovered a $2 investment would get him a flight in a Piper TriPacer. By age 14 his journey into flight training began and good grades earned him a Civil Air Patrol Cadet scholarship.

Two incidents of engine failure didn’t discourage his love for flying. The first time, as a seven-hour student pilot he landed the plane safely after the engine stopped on takeoff when ice formed in the carburetor. Another incident occurred during aerobatics. Lacking a fuel system that kept positive pressure when the plane was upside-down, the engine quit due to fuel starvation but was quickly restarted once he rolled it back over to a normal flight attitude.

A degree in mechanical engineering got him a job designing jet engines for Pratt & Whitney and he earned two patents, one related to jet engines and the other, nuclear research.

And then he bought a Cessna 310, just like the one Sky King used to fly. He flew Angel Flights and took his pastors to church conferences and out of town funerals. That’s when he put “Isaiah 40:31” on the tail, which is what got our attention when we stopped for fuel in Knoxville, Tennessee. And that’s how we came upon Charles Queen.

Linda: Returning to Knoxville one evening from Philadelphia the beautiful October weather had turned messy and Charles would be flying “in the soup”. He’d filed his instrument flight plan, expecting air traffic control to clear him on his requested route. But the controller’s next words changed that: “Stand by for re-route.” He’d have to extensively re-plan and review his entire route as he headed into the thick clouds where he’d have no visibility and more than moderate turbulence. He touched down safely in Knoxville but the experience stuck with him.

Then the morning of May 8, 2003, Charlie’s alarm buzzed, as usual, but his left arm wouldn’t move to shut it off. Then he tried to get out of bed, but his left leg wouldn’t move. Mildred called 911, and during the 68 days in the hospital, doctors told her that her husband would never walk again.

The stroke ended his flying and the design work he was doing for research equipment for a nuclear fusion program. However, he has since walked to the top of Clingmans Dome in the Smokey Mountains – the highest point in Tennessee – and volunteers at the hospital twice a week working with stroke patients and the chaplain. It hurts to walk but he keeps going.

“I know God is in control of everything and allows things to happen for a reason,” Charlie says. “I don’t always know what the reason is, but I know I have to trust Him. I’ve had such a blessed life with my loving wife and three wonderful daughters and a great job that let me travel the world. I never questioned Him when things were going well, so why question Him when things changed?”

Charles Queen’s nine grandchildren will someday have their grandfather’s autobiography to help them appreciate what they have, and trust God in the hard times, even when it’s hard to understand, even when God says, “Stand by for re-route.”

December 11, 2012 Catching up with Billy Werth

The Liberty Gazette
December 11, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: A new poster depicts a Pitts S2C (biplane) just a few feet above a runway, inverted. You’re looking at the airplane from behind, as though it is flying past you, very close. The upside-down tail is within reach, a gloved hand almost touching it; a snapshot of an air show routine performed by the Werth brothers, Billy, a pilot, and David, a motorcycle stuntman and racer.

I caught up with Billy last week before he left for ICAS – the International Council of Air Shows annual convention in Las Vegas. Growing up in an aviation family and flying since 1988, Billy is a military pilot (Aircraft Commander on the air re-fueler KC-135R), a Chautauqua Airlines captain on the Embraer 145, and a modern-day barnstormer, dazzling air show crowds in his newly acquired Christen Eagle and giving rides and lessons in the Pitts through his company, Grayout Aerosports, of Indianapolis.

He’s often spotted practicing aerobatic maneuvers over my sister’s house, so it’s not unusual for me to get a text message from someone in the family, “Billy’s up practicing!”

We first met him at the fuel pump at the airport near her house several years ago. Back then Billy was very close to getting his ground level waiver, meaning the FAA would allow him to do aerobatics without limitations on how low he could go, a valuable commodity to an air show pilot.

Today, he’s a hot item. And while that’s certainly a testament to his skill and training, he also married a marketing guru with a background in broadcasting and event planning, who does a great job selling Billy as a product. Haley, who I remember as a toddler in pigtails growing up a couple doors down from us, is a burst of energy and an asset in the air show business.

The routine with brother David is a bit edgy to some airshow executives, so for now they’re performing a wing grab, rather than the depicted tail grab. “Some airshow executives think we didn’t think this through, that we pulled it out of a hat and tried it once – but that’s not it. We’ve taken all the possible safety steps. We’re in constant communication during the routine, weather has to be just right, and we practice, practice, practice. Nothing we do in a show is new to us; it’s planned out, choreographed, and practiced.”

The act opens with a game of chicken between airplane and motorcycle. Then the boys settle down to race. Then there’s “the grab”. “It’s the ‘High Five,’” Billy explains. “Brothers fight, compete, and make up. If you have a sibling you get that, and we relate to the audience on that level.”

Rides and lessons help support the costs of performing. Non-pilots can get a taste of aerobatics; for pilots, aerobatic lessons are important for keeping valuable skills current. Whether you’re flying a small Cessna or a Boeing 757, as Billy emphasizes, you can lose those skills. “One day that auto pilot might go out. When you’re looking around asking, ‘where are we going and why are we in this hand basket,’ you had better take a long hard look at that. You need good stick and rudder skills. Sometimes you have to turn off all that fancy equipment and fly the airplane.”

Have a look at their website, You’ll be impressed!

December 4, 2012 Flying Clubs

The Liberty Gazette
December 4, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: When I started flying I rented airplanes from a small local flight school. Like most kids my age, I couldn’t afford to buy an airplane. Even if I could have, with limited exposure to the field of aviation at that time I wouldn’t have known what would be the best machine for me. Renting offered an opportunity to learn to fly more within my budget and experiment with a few different airplanes. Scheduling was sometimes a challenge, and there were always checkout requirements – proving to an instructor you could fly a certain model airplane before you’d be allowed to rent it – which added to the cost.

Like most flight schools, the one I patronized relied on the airplanes they rented to be available for student training, so once I earned my private pilot certificate it was more difficult to use their airplanes for pleasure trips. Charging by the hour, most flight schools will establish a daily minimum if an airplane is taken for the whole day; it’s a means of bridging the gap of what they need in rental revenue and the desires of their licensed customers.

I learned to fly before I bought my first car so I guess you could say it was my passion for flight that forced my first auto purchase. My local airport had no flying club, so ground transportation became necessary. The motivation was always flight.

Air South Flying Club at Fullerton Municipal Airport had a wide range of airplanes and while not all flying clubs are for the same purpose, here members had access to all the airplanes owned and operated by the club at a discount price and without daily minimums. This included larger faster airplanes with six seats, and even twin engine airplanes. Even today it is nearly impossible to find an airplane with more than four seats for rent outside of a flying club.

Clubs come in all different sizes and are created for different purposes. They might have just one airplane or many. Some are commercial ventures, others a social center. I interspersed my advanced flight training with the club’s instructors with aerial adventures to Santa Catalina Island and snow ski trips to Idaho. Club events such as photo-flight contests and dinner fly-outs encouraged members’ mutual support.

In the 1970’s Beech Aircraft Corporation sponsored flying clubs across the country called Beech Aero Centers. They even had a custom designed modular club house. The idea was members could check out in a particular model airplane at one Aero Center and that check-out was good at any Aero Center, saving them any further check-out expense if they wanted to fly an airplane in another part of the country. That practice faded over time, but now it’s making a comeback.

Presently there are around 600 flying clubs in the United States. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has set a goal to grow that to 2,000. With the return of universal check-outs making flying more affordable more people will be able to participate in this wonderful activity, and expand their horizons. We think a flying club could work well here in Liberty.

November 27, 2012 Jerrie Mock

The Liberty Gazette
November 27, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: On a spring day 48 years ago a red and white Cessna 180, a single-engine airplane, touched down in Columbus, Ohio completing a fairly long cross-country flight – 23,206 miles long to be exact. Exiting the aircraft before a cheering crowd of 3,000 the pilot, Geraldine "Jerrie" Fredritz Mock, a 38-year old housewife and mother of three stepped into history; now it seems an almost forgotten history. Quite a journey, the flight ended exactly where it began 29 days and 21 stopovers before.

Her story, in the back pages and nooks of history books, few people know: that she was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo. Many people think Amelia Earhart was the first to fly solo around the world but she only completed about 75 percent of the trip before she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared someplace over the Pacific Ocean.

Today organizations such as Earthrounders help pilots organize circumnavigation attempts, but this was in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet. Jerrie planned the entire adventure herself in the basement of her Ohio home. She flight planned using old world navigation charts given to her by a former Air Force pilot friend and her husband Russ supported her by securing sponsors and equipment donations.

Jerrie fell in love with flying the day she first rode in a Ford Tri-Motor at the age of 12. She dreamed of visiting far off places, yet it wasn't really her intent to be the first to make such a trip. Things just sort of came together and it sounded like a lot of fun.

While in the final phases of planning she learned that Joan Merriam Smith was planning to make a similar flight, only in a faster twin-engine Piper Apache. Smith wanted to be the first woman to round the globe solo and she was going to make a race of it. Jerrie moved her planned departure date up and she launched sooner than she felt she was ready.

Through the course of the “race” she faced dangers from ice over the North Atlantic to sand storms over the Sahara Desert. Her brakes’ mechanical problems weren’t the only concerns about the airplane; the long HF radio antenna necessary for communication over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans wasn’t entirely cooperative either. Navigating around the escalating conflict in Vietnam, she finally achieved her goal but the significance of her feat was drowned out by the war that sprung to the front pages of every newspaper in the U.S.

Named for her airplane, Three-Eight Charlie published in 1970 chronicles the adventures of Jerrie and her Cessna 180, but the book had a limited release so many people even in aviation circles don’t know about her.

Jerrie lives in Quincy, Florida, her beloved Charlie, also known as The Spirit of Columbus, hangs from the ceiling in the Smithsonian Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, in all its glory for all to see, encouraging others to dream about launching on their own adventures.