The Liberty Gazette
March 4, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Here in Liberty we’re fortunate to have an airport and a couple of helipads. As publicly owned assets they should serve the public – that’s their job – and they do, night and day.
There was a heart-warming story from eastern Peru and we thought you would like to know about it. It makes me think of one local family who shared their story of how the Liberty Airport played a role in the rescue of one of their family members.
It was one night last April when an emergency medical flight needed to depart immediately from Contamana in order to save some lives. Contamana is a remote town in the Rain Forest, and in the deepest darkness of night a take-off from the local landing strip was unsafe. There are no lights on this dirt and grass strip.
The pilot of the airplane, a Cessna Caravan, had to consider the safety of his passengers, and determined they could not take off such a short and unimproved strip in total darkness.
But in that remote little town there’s a local radio station, and I imagine its run by someone much like Bill Buchanan, someone who cares about people and doesn’t stand still and shake his head and say, “Someone ought to do something.” The good folks at the radio station learned of the situation and went without delay to the airwaves, asking listeners for help. I imagine our local station would do the same if the need were there.
But how could the people of this remote town in Peru help their neighbors in need? Their response will warm your heart.
Mike: In less than half an hour after the radio station sent out the plea the count of about 300 taxi drivers and people from across the listening area drove their cars, motorbikes and auto-rickshaws to the air strip, lined up along each side, and turned on their headlights to light the way along the 2624-foot long strip. By comparison, the Liberty Airport is currently 3,801 feet long. That tells you the pilot had no wiggle room for mistakes – they had to get off the ground in a short distance.
Thanks to the goodness of all those people who rushed to the airport that night to give of their time and use of their belongings without any expectation or request for compensation, with nothing to gain but knowing they did the right thing, the pilot was able to take off with three passengers in need of medical treatment. Bystanders cheered, and people knew they’d done what was right at the time it was needed. Some taxi drivers must have sacrificed a great deal, being put out of service and unable to pick up paying customers for that period of time.
There’s a BBC report on file which you can watch online, just search using a word string such as “BBC headlights Peru air strip medical flight” and I bet you’ll find the video.
The airport in Contamana is the lifeline to the outside world, and the passengers who were served that night, a mother and her newborn baby, and a 17-year old boy, can thank the people who dropped everything they were busy doing to drive to the airstrip and light the way to hope and healing.