The Liberty Gazette
April 16, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Sitting at his desk our friend Jerry interrupts his telephone conversation, his eyes following a German ME-262 as it makes a low pass down the runway. As the WWII jet fighter disappears from sight he apologizes to the person on the other end of the line for his momentary distraction. What Jerry sees out the big picture windows of his office that overlook the ramp and runways of Ellington Field is what I call the "million dollar view" and every day brings something new that would jazz any pilot or airplane enthusiast.
Each airport has its own viewing value for the aviation spectator and depending on location that setting might be worth $20 thousand or $20 million, yet one doesn’t need to spend a fortune for an office on an airport to enjoy such scenery.
At Houston Hobby airport for instance, the city has set up observation areas adjacent to the approach end of the runways on the northwest and southeast sides of the airport. I often see people parked, eating lunch as airplanes come and go. Similar observation areas have been created at airports around the country. Ft. Lauderdale International and Ft. Lauderdale Executive airports in Florida offer picnic tables, and the radio conversations between the tower controllers and the pilots are piped through a public address system. An inexpensive scanner-type radio from RadioShack could provide the same opportunity to listen in.
While Ellington offers almost a constant stream of military and NASA aircraft, Galveston has a patio area near the ramp where people can watch the oil rig helicopters come and go, and planes from the Lone Star Flight Museum take flight. David Wayne Hooks airport in Tomball has a café with windows facing the ramp and runways and a park with a lake where the ducks will happily take your food scraps. Liberty may not have the traffic volume these other airports do but the beauty of this is that each airport is different; imagine sitting at a picnic table, sipping on a soda as a bright yellow J-3 Cub makes its way around the pattern practicing takeoffs and landings.
In Phoenix I used to ride my bike out to the ramp at the Williams Gateway Airport. The view there was breathtaking, not unlike Ellington where a lot of military traffic performed impromptu airshows, but with the Superstition Mountain Wilderness all around, an almost vertical red and brown mastiff topped by a strange wind-blown rock formation called the Hoodoos. In Eagle, Colorado I’d sit by the fireplace in the lobby of the Vail Valley Jet Center watching aircraft landing against the backdrop of Rocky Mountain peaks alighted in Aspens regaled in full fall colors, and patches of snow here and there. In the Caribbean I’ve munched on fries at a small beachfront restaurant next to an airstrip while boats lazily drift along in turquoise waters of a half-moon shaped bay surrounded by white sandy beaches.
All of these are wonderful experiences but the greatest views I have had the privilege to behold are looks on the faces of little kids experiencing the thrill and wonder of flight for the first time as they look out those cockpit windows at the far horizon and imagining what lies just beyond. For a great example, search on the Internet for a video called Lainey’s First Airplane Ride, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s priceless.