December 18, 2012Ely 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.”