The Liberty Gazette
January 29, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Liberty County’s two public airports are experiencing new life. While Jose Doblados and Debbie Mabery overhaul the Liberty Municipal Airport, Clay and Darline Dean are busy in the north end of the county.
Cleveland native, Clay Dean, grandson of a former constable there, grew up in New Caney and started a carpet installation business now serving hotels nationwide. Only recently has aviation invaded his life, and Darline’s, his best buddy since fourth grade.
While assisting Darline’s sister in her battle against breast cancer, they befriended another patient at M.D. Anderson who needed a place to stay. Their extra apartment in New Caney would be perfect for the schoolteacher/mom who had been traveling for appointments.
It was the mode of travel that caught Clay’s attention. “A pilot from Oklahoma had flown her to Conroe for her appointment, and that’s how I found out about how flying helps people,” says the new Cleveland Airport Manager. “I said to Darline, ‘we can do that.’”
Mike: He’d never flown before, but in less than four years Clay has earned his private, instrument, commercial, certified flight instructor, and certified instrument instructor certificates, and is licensed to fly multi-engine airplanes.
Working with Pilots for Patients Clay flies people in, then Darline handles ground transportation. “Instead of the hundred-dollar-hamburger,” explains Clay, referring to the popular phrase for flying somewhere to eat, “we do this.”
And he goes beyond that, inviting pilots working toward a commercial license to join him for these flights because it gives them an opportunity to build time that counts toward the commercial certificate, and “introduces them to helping others.”
After installing state-of-the-art avionics in their Bonanza, thanking God for all he has received, Clay asked in prayer, “Lord, You gave us all we have, what do You want us to do with it?” Clay says, “There was no mistaking it was God’s answer – I couldn’t think that up that fast!” The message was, “GPSS stands for God’s Plan for Salvation and Security.” God had provided these tools for Clay’s evangelism.
Explaining “fixes” – locations in the air for navigation – he describes how there was a time when he could pick the “fixes” in life; he could choose where he wanted to go. But turning his life over to God is like having a GPS that tells the traveler through life, “if this is where you want to end up, here is how you get there.”
Linda: Before retiring after 26 years as the airport manager, Alf Vien set in motion the processes that would lead to growth, including new hangars and an additional 12 acres of land. The Deans will see these plans to fruition, and have added some new plans, including offering airplanes for rent and instruction, a full-time maintenance facility, and a courtesy car.
Life at the airport is a family affair. Clay’s sister Pam helps with computer work when she’s not traveling in her job as a landman, and Darline helps fuel airplanes, mow grass, and clean bathrooms. When I asked Darline to tell me something about herself, truly a lady, what she talked about was how wonderful her grandchildren are.
Seeing how the Dean family has taken such a liking to the people who come and go at the Cleveland Airport, the community and patrons of the airport will all benefit.