The Liberty Gazette
January 8, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: There’s just no mistaking an old piston radial engine. It bellows a low throaty sound, admired by airplane lovers and engine geeks the world over. While standing out in an open field taking pictures of approaching airplanes at a fly-in at Fort Parker Flying Field in Groesbeck I searched the skies for the source of that sound. When the bright yellow bi-plane crossed over the trees the throaty sound ceased as the pilot throttled back the power, leaving a whining sound as air passed over the “singing wires” that aid in bracing the wings. As the airplane drifted down preparing to land on the short rolled-grass runway the pilot must have decided it didn’t feel right and pushed the power forward for a go-around. Almost instantly an eardrum-shattering whack came as the propeller blade tips momentarily went supersonic, for full go-around power. The pilot made another circuit around the traffic pattern and all the people wandering about the field gazing at other airplanes stopped to watch as he made another approach, and a beautiful landing.
Linda: Manufactured in Troy, Ohio in 1941 by the Weaver Aircraft Company (WACO, pronounced Wah’-kō), this particular Waco was first used to train college students, then transferred to the Army Air Corps Air Training Service where it joined others like it to train more than 60,000 pilots for the military during WWII. The Tally family of Justin, Texas, are the current owners and they’ve named it Wacky Jack by combining WACO with images of a bumble bee and a yellow-jacket wasp. They’ve even made up a “birth certificate” that includes “parents” (Weaver Aircraft Company) place of birth, and date of birth along with all dates of “rebirth” (rebuilding and modifying). Godparents are Continental (engine) and Curtis Reed (propeller), and “accomplishments” are in speed and horsepower. The list of “residences” ends with the Tally family; its highly skilled pilot, Tracy Tally, attracts attention at fly-ins with his graceful landings in the eye-catching vintage airplane.
Tracy gives rides in the way old barnstormers did in the 1920s and even into the 1930s: he accepts tips to help offset the operating costs of the airplane, but that’s it. While he shares the airplane’s history and introduces people to the era that was the golden age of aviation, his overwhelming desire is to use it as a means to share his faith in Christ. Beautiful glossy, colorful information cards give the basic specifications of the airplane, some of its history, a bit about his family’s seed business, and a bit about Tracy’s relationship with Jesus. Links to a couple of Christian websites are included.
Mike: In 1939 Tracy’s grandfather, E. C. Tally, bought a farm near Justin, Texas and started growing wheat and oats. In 1958 he incorporated and the farm became the Justin Seed Company. Like many farms, this one has been passed down through the generations and these days you’ll find Tracy at the helm. In addition to the grass, flower, grain, and many other varieties of seed, Justin Seed Company has expanded to sell feed, fertilizers, turf and erosion products, and equipment.
A hard-working family, Tracy’s parents provided him with the tools and means to succeed in this business and he uses what he’s been given, including Wacky Jack, primarily to win souls for Christ and secondarily for business.