The Liberty Gazette
November 5, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Low ceilings and visibility delayed the first flights at the super Challenge Air event but every pilot and volunteer on the ramp was having too much fun with the festivities to notice. Even with the later start, we worked in three very special flights for children with disabilities before having bug out to Jasper in time to squeeze in the annual Ghost Run Air Race and Punkin’ Chunkin’ contest.
Our competitors might have been disappointed when we landed and refueled just in time for the green flag. The neck-and-neck points race will be over when the season ends this Saturday in Taylor, Texas.
As hurried as our arrival and race start were, the post-race lunch and awards began with a nice surprise. The citizens of Jasper voted in a new mayor this past May. They chose Max Griffin over the two-term incumbent so he must have really impressed them. As visitors to Jasper who have some knowledge of the merit of airports we were pleasantly surprised when the first person to the microphone to thank everyone for coming to Jasper to race was American Airlines pilot and mayor, Captain Mayor Griffin.
Mike: Looking back at the campaign last Spring, Max Griffin, who grew up in Jasper and had returned in 2011, ran for office because he believed he could have a positive impact on his hometown, which has suffered a great deal of negative publicity. The Captain Mayor understands, and rightly so, that ambassadorship is the responsibility of the mayor and council, so his successful campaign focused on moving Jasper forward – for everyone, not just the ‘good-ol’ boys’ or the country club friends with money. For us, it was a refreshing surprise, quite respectable for this mayor to be at the airport to say, "Thank you for coming to Jasper – we’re glad you’re here," and "We want you to know, this is an aviation friendly city – we are pro-aviation and we know this airport is important to our community!"
Besides his conviction that it is vital to serve all the citizens of Jasper, Griffin aims to encourage business owners to build or relocate there. That he finds the airport so important to the city’s future will be a key factor in attracting businesses that will bring jobs and build the local economy.
The message from Jasper renewing hope for a small town and its airport was strengthened by news that came the following week from the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a coalition of individuals, businesses, agricultural groups, FBO’s, small airports, elected officials, charitable organizations, and leading business and aviation groups that are promoting the value of general aviation and local airports, particularly for rural communities. As you know, general aviation and local airports support business activity, medical care, disaster relief, fire-fighting, agriculture, law enforcement, pipeline patrol and a host of important resources and services vital to small communities.
The important announcement was that Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Arizona, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, has joined the Board of Directors of the Alliance. The Conference represents more than 1,000 communities and as a pilot and the head of that organization, Mayor Smith knows first-hand the role that general aviation plays as an economic driver and in providing critical services to communities across the nation.
Two encouraging messages in one week!