The Liberty Gazette
September 17, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: It sounds a bit fishy but it’s a story that came my way thirty years ago from a game warden pilot who worked for California’s Fish and Game department. I was a flight instructor at Long Beach/Daugherty Field in California when I met a couple of pilots who flew the department’s single engine Cessna airplanes based there. Their job was multi-faceted including inventorying game, transporting personnel, aerial photography and searching for illegal poaching activity, but their stories about planting fish in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains’ backcountry lakes and streams are my favorites.
Fish and Game pilots accomplished the task with a Beechcraft KingAir twin-engine turboprop with a belly pod, which is where the fish rode. The KingAir would fly low over a lake and then jettison the load of fish from the pod much like a "borate bomber" would unleash a load of red-orange slurry on a forest fire. Frequent fish flying made these pilots pretty good at the game; the piles of plummeting pesce almost always plopped down right on target, but in mountainous terrain are often unpredictable air currents and turbulence which can interfere with the pilot’s aim.
On one such occasion the pilot missed the lake almost entirely. Normally a game warden is on the ground and in radio contact with the pilot to ensure the drop zone is clear, as was the case on this day. When the pilot set up his approach to the small lake, he opened the hatch about a second too late and the fish flopped down on the far lake shore, landing not too far from a couple of fishermen who didn’t have any idea what was going on.
Startled by the sudden raining of fish, the two speechless and befuddled fishermen ran over to where the fish had landed and stood there looking around at all those fish lying on the ground.
The game warden seeing the fishermen in the middle of the "catch" couldn’t resist the opportunity presented by this scene. He walked over and looked at all the fish, then looked at the fishermen, then back at the fish as he slowly removed his citation book from his pack.
The fishermen protested "No! A plane came by and dumped ‘em here!"
"Right, sure," said the warden as he continued to cite the pair.
"Really, they just fell here and we came over to look. You don’t really think we caught all of these do you?"
"Yeah, they just fell from the sky," the warden baited them on. But he couldn’t keep from laughing at the flabbergasted fishermen and soon the truth was out about the fishy downpour.
Another silly story about falling stuff came from a young man who celebrated his high school graduation by flying with a friend in a Cessna 172. Having filled the airplane with a case of toilet paper it’s no surprise it rolled out the windows. Holding on to the start of each roll the boys let them unravel and rip away from the force of the air moving around the airplane. Once started, the rolls continued to unfurl and eventually floated down, coming to rest upon buildings and trees in the small downtown.
The pranksters landed and snuck back into town to enjoy the masterpiece TP job with which they had graced their hometown.
If you know someone graduating this school year you might keep that in mind.