formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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August 26, 2014 A walk in Space

The Liberty Gazette
August 26, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: It’s a surreal feeling, floating in space around the International Space Station. There is no air and there are no contaminants so everything seems stark, sharp to my eyes. Up here white is incredibly white and black is blacker than anything we’ve seen on earth. One side of my body faces the sun and bakes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. On my other side, pointed away from the sun, the temperature drops to negative 400. I raise my hands and look at my white gloves and rotate them about as if I’ve never seen them before. I turn my body to the left and looking through the visor in my helmet I see Linda in her spacesuit floating next to me.

We drift and move around the Space Station; sometimes we tilt in a different direction to look at something because it’s hard to move about with so much bulkiness covering our bodies.

There really is no up or down in Space but when I tried to look down at my feet and wiggle my toes I could not see past my chest pack which contains my environmental regulating equipment and oxygen. Protruding from my chest pack is a "T" shaped thing that looks sort of like a handlebar with loops for gripping at the T-ends. Onto these loops we can hook our tools as we carry them out to work on the station.

Past the long solar panel arrays, wing-like structures extend from the station to catch sunlight and provide power. I watch the earth and the clouds slide by faster than I would see even in a fast jet. The Space Station and us along with it are traveling at over 17,000 miles an hour. It takes us little more than an hour and a half to make a full track around the world which means we get to see about 15 and a half brilliant sunrises a day. Our temporary home is suspended in a low orbit, somewhere between 205 and 270 miles above the earth. Gravity still has a pull that far away, and as the station orbits it gradually descends, its orbit decaying. We rely on the Russian Zvezda rocket engine to push the ISS back out to the higher orbital altitude.

When the sun goes below the horizon, the brilliant solar panels become dim. In order to see we use powerful headlights attached our helmets which illuminate the areas on which we came out to work.

We drift down to the lower side of the station and peer into one of the cupola’s seven perfect distortion-free windows. From inside it is like a miniature Omnimax theater view of the earth, but for now we are outside. We move over to the airlock, our Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) is almost finished. I look over at Linda again and wave. She waves back. Funny, she only has partial arms. Only her gloves are waving about.

Linda: No, it wasn’t a dream. It was reality - the Virtual Reality Lab at NASA, that is. In a small room in one of the more obscure buildings at Johnson Space Center is the lab that has been training astronauts and movie makers for 15 years. Everything about the Space Station and space walking is recreated in the greatest detail by the most highly skilled engineers. The only thing that seems to be missing is elbows.

August 19, 2014 Beryl Markham

The Liberty Gazette
August 19, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Impressionable during the Roaring Twenties, a horse trainer born English but raised in Africa, who had scandalous affairs, went into the history books as a pioneering aviator. Despite being a failure in personal relationships, this flyer’s childhood offered a world without walls. Developing great skill with the spear and the rifle, our subject this week was as comfortable with animals as with men. Although English by birth and ancestry, Swahili became the would-be aviator’s primary language. A couple of years of formal schooling in Nairobi were all the school could handle of this wild child, who, being a "bad influence", was denied a return to school.

Learning how to repair an engine, read aeronautical charts without the help of GPS, and fly "blind" relying on instruments when meteorological conditions prevented visual flying, the sky-bound adventurer logged thousands of flight hours flying people to distant farms, delivering mail, rescuing downed pilots, helping hunters find big game in big Africa, and at times flying as an air ambulance pilot, when the need arose.

Who was this dare-devil person of the 1930’s, the first to fly from London to New York nonstop? Her name was Beryl Markham and she was the first woman to earn a commercial pilot’s license. People who knew her say that she lived what she believed, that "Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday."

Mike: She flew east to west across the Atlantic in 1936, the first woman to do so, in her plane she named The Messenger, a monoplane called a Percival Vega Gull. From this famous flight came her book, "West with the Night". The plane was a four-seat, single engine British-built aircraft made of wood and fabric, with folding wings.

In the Gold Age of aviation the Vega Gull, piloted by Beryl and other then-famous aviators won races and broke records around the world.

The Percival Vega Gull stayed in production as a civil airplane until WWII broke out. Then, as with most other aircraft manufacturing plants, the factory built them for military use. It was a solid airplane. Sure, the wooden frame made for some weather restrictions, but even today the Vega Gull is admired for its ability to haul the weight of four adult sized people, plus baggage and full fuel tanks, and it could do so at a decent cruise speed and distance range. Since the engine was only 200 horsepower it only burned about nine gallons an hour. Even with all the weight it could carry, it could still land and take off out of a small grass airfield, and those folding wings sure helped when it was time to find a parking spot in a crowded hangar.

It is true, what Wilbur Wright said of flying, that "More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination" and equally true, too, are the words of Alejandro Jodorowski, "Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness." If it be so, then we, Linda and I, are incurable.

August 12, 2014 Reimagined Airplane

The Liberty Gazette
August 12, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Proudly displayed outside the AOPA booth at this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association’s National Convention – AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin – was the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s little yellow and black Cessna 152. This, a symbol of one of the major efforts by AOPA, is an airplane that can make flying more affordable.

The day before the AirVenture Cup race Linda and I visited with AOPA’s president Mark Baker in Mitchell, South Dakota. The most down-to-earth, real guy had a sparkle in his eye as he talked about the employee who was flying the display airplane from their home office in Fredrick, Maryland to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the show. The trip would take her 14 hours and, he said, she was having a blast.

Linda: General Aviation has long needed a shot in the arm. Or the buttocks, or maybe both. Why? Because it’s so dern expensive. That’s thanks to lawyers and other greedy people.

Mike: We think Mark is the right person to put some smart moves into play and change the game. He explained some of AOPA’s strategies for rejuvenating flying activity. The two-seat Cessna 152, along with its older brother the 150, has been an airplane of choice for teaching thousands of pilots to fly. Mark calls it the Piper Cub of his (and our) generation. Unfortunately, rampant litigation by people not willing to take responsibility for their own actions made producing the popular airplane uneconomical and the last one rolled off the assembly line nearly three decades ago.

AOPA would like to bring the little trainer back as it makes for an inexpensive aircraft in which to take to the skies. Flying clubs, flight schools, multiple owner partnerships all find this affordable plane attractive. But even with tort reform, if Cessna were to produce the 152 today a full third of the purchasing price of the airplane would go to paying liability insurance premiums.

Linda: That’s disgusting!

Mike: So, carefully refurbishing and overhauling them is what AOPA sees as a starting point. Teaming up with Wyoming-based aircraft manufacturer Aviat to update these machines, they’re calling them Reimagined Aircraft. The price tag will be about half what it would be new.

Mark believes it’s more likely someone would pull out a small airplane for an afternoon sojourn around the local pea patch burning five gallons of fuel per hour than doing the same thing with an airplane that consumes three to six times as much. The Cessna 150 and 152 are a joy to fly, light on the controls and while they don’t perform like a rocket, each is quite capable. In fact, at the time of this writing there are two 150’s registered to challenge each other in the Indy Air Race.

Linda: Mike, brave man that he is, is going to let me have the last word. Putting aside my love of lawyer and politician bashing, what I want to leave you with this week is that this is huge. This news about the Reimagined Aircraft, central to AOPA’s campaign, "You Can Fly", and the leadership of Mark Baker has already begun to light up the future for a segment of the industry that supplies more economic support to this country than any other. Oh those wonderful flying machines!

August 5, 2014 Camp!

The Liberty Gazette
August 5, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Up to Mitchell, South Dakota we flew, in pursuit of another AirVenture Cup Race trophy and more points on the board for the national championship in the Sport Air Racing League. Post race plans were the typical – land at the finish line just outside of Oshkosh, fill the tanks, and fly in for another exciting week-long aviation celebration with a million other people.

But this one would be different for me. This year I would commit the week to Women Soar- You Soar, a program of the Experimental Aviation Association aimed at encouraging young women, ages 13-18, to follow their dreams and learn about careers available in aviation. Even today I know of women who have experienced that belittling attitude that says women should not fly airplanes or become engineers or be interested in math or science.

Now in its twelfth year, Women Soar – You Soar’s Chairperson, renown aerobatic Hall-of-Famer, and Southwest Airlines captain Debby Rihn-Harvey, asked me to join her group of mentors for the girls coming to camp at AirVenture this year.

First, the invitation alone is an honor, but now having spent a week with 87 teenage girls, each making plans for an exciting future, mentoring is as encouraging to a mentor as camp is to the campers.

In small groups the girls had mentoring sessions, seminars, and workshops that included welding, fabric aircraft repair, and woodwork. They went up into the World’s Busiest Control Tower (busiest one week out of the year) and climbed into vintage airplanes for an up-close feel of the cockpit. They watched a daytime airshow and a nighttime airshow, and spent a couple of hours with seven of the remaining WASP – the Women Air Force Service Pilots of WWII. Two of our campers were interviewed for a television show about the program, chosen for the interview because they had already soloed an airplane before camp started.

These amazing young women brought enthusiasm, creativity, skills and manners and enriched every one of us who came as mentors.

I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with one of the two who had already soloed in an airplane, as she was in my group. A couple of years ago she was shy and unsure of herself. Then she joined the Civil Air Patrol and her experiences there have completely changed her, giving her confidence in who she is and what she wants to do.

For these girls being in school and around their peers but having very different goals than most of their friends can bring feelings of isolation. Coming to an all-girl aviation camp lets them share their passion for aviation with others like them.

Not all of our campers want to be pilots. Some are interested in biomedical engineering, some want to be photographers, some aren’t sure yet what they want, but they know they like aviation. For this reason, mentors with varying backgrounds, all touching on aviation, were chosen so that the girls could be exposed to the variety of opportunities available, and to begin networking for their future.

A state director in math education who aspires to be an astronaut, a flight surgeon, an airline pilot, an aerospace engineer, an air traffic controller, a member of the NTSB, along with myself and others have spent a week with a group of girls who will someday lead, invent, and make the world a better place.

July 29, 2014 A family G.I.F.T.

The Liberty Gazette
July 29, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: It’s been a few years since we shared a post-race banquet table with Mary and Lawrence Latimer, but I’m honored to be working with Mary in the upcoming Pinch Hitter course August 16 at the West Houston Airport. Designed to teach non-pilot flying companions how to land an airplane in case of emergency, the course will last the full day and only cost the price of lunch, thanks to many gifted and generous volunteers, such as Mary Latimer.

Mary is an amazing woman. She is even amazing among all the amazing women I know. Her non-traditional flight school in Vernon, Texas provides just a peek into the lady who doesn’t believe in "can’t".

Mary uses her experience to encourage and to teach, and who better qualified than one person who has done it all. Not only is she a corporate pilot and a certified flight instructor, she is also one of few FAA designated examiners, meaning she gives the practical tests in the airplane (and decides whether a pilot gets a license); she is also not only a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic, but also a level above that, an FAA authorized Inspector, meaning she is the person who can sign airplane logbooks for any type of work done. Not only is she all that, but she was also an air traffic controller, and a 2013 Flight Instructor of the Year.

Nothing’s changed much over the last 100 years. Women still comprise only 6% of the pilot population. But Mary wanted to find out if she could identify what causes women to start flight training and then stop, not realizing their dreams. Then she could attack the causes and find a way to overcome the obstacles to flight training that are unique to women.

So began Girls In Flight Training, or G.I.F.T., a week-long camp held each July in Vernon for women to start on their dream, or finish the training they abandoned, totally free.

And lest you think husband Lawrence is a stand-by, try this on: commercial pilot, flight instructor, helicopter instructor, airframe and power plant mechanic, corporate pilot, and Vietnam Veteran serving in the Army as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, "Screaming Eagles". Mary calls him the biggest supporter of women in aviation.

The Latimers’ daughter Tamara Griffith, a former corporate and freight pilot, joins them as one of the instructors for G.I.F.T. week, as she takes time off from her own business of flight instructing and airplane mechanic-ing in the Dallas area. She and her mom are likely the only mother-daughter pair with FAA Inspector Authorizations, let alone all their other credentials.

And are you ready for this? Granddaughter Amanda has joined the family’s focused venture. Not only is she one of the youngest female certified flight instructors, she is likely the youngest Gold Seal instructor, fulfilling more stringent requirements to achieve that recognition. Let’s not let it stop there. Amanda is one of a small handful of female crop dusters, too.

The accomplishments of the Latimer – Griffith family are amazing, and one could accept if they were full of themselves, but they’re not looking for the spotlight. This is a family of humble givers who just wants to encourage others to make use of the life God gave them.

I’ll meet you at the well in Vernon, Texas. I want some of that water too.

July 22, 2014 Pinch Hitter

The Liberty Gazette
July 22, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Pilot and aviation writer Doug Ritter desperately wanted his wife Sue to know how to land the plane in case he became incapacitated. He relates a story as an example of why this was so important to him. The true story is about a couple flying over Fairbanks, Alaska when the pilot husband suddenly suffered a brain hemorrhage. Just the day before this happened the wife had attended a flying companion course, often called "Pinch Hitter", which she credits for saving her life. She had learned how and where to call for help on the radio, how to get control of the airplane, find the nearest airport, and land safely.

Doug writes for Avweb and shared his thoughts in the hugely popular aviation digital publication. It doesn't seem very responsible to leave someone you care about with no backup when there is a very viable alternative available. 

He had tried for years to convince Sue to take the course. When she did, she realized she should have done it years before. Her appreciation, enjoyment, and comfort level with flying all found a new high, so much so that she shared her experience with her husband’s audience this way:

I did what I came to do. I learned how to safely take control of the plane and land it if I needed to in an emergency. I learned to not feel shy about asking for help if I need it. I have … no qualms about asking for help to get to a major airport and bigger runway if I have the fuel. I feel in control.
The Pinch-Hitter course gave me the knowledge and confidence to handle an emergency situation. … I can also be an even bigger help to him and I now enjoy our flights much more. It's fun.
It took me over ten years to be "convinced" to take this course. It doesn't hurt, it isn't fattening, and I should have done it years ago. Earning my Pinch-Hitter wings was one of my proudest moments. – Just Do It! — A Reluctant Participant's View of the Pinch-Hitter Course, Avweb, Jan. 5, 1998

Next month non-pilot flying companions will have an opportunity to take a Pinch Hitter course in Houston. They will learn fundamentals of flying, talking with air traffic controllers, and basic emergency procedures.

If you or someone you know could benefit from this course, please share. We will be holding it at the West Houston Airport, 18000 Groschke Rd; Houston, TX 77084 on Saturday, August 16, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

The cost will be minimal (lunch) and flights can be arranged individually following the ground school.

With an all-star line-up of some of the best female flight instructors in the nation we’ll cover safety, basics of aerodynamics, aircraft instruments and parts, basic navigation and chart reading, checklists, radio usage and communications, GPS usage, traffic patterns and landing, and emergency procedures.

We love to share our passion for flight, but this offers more – this could save a life. Here’s the web address, pass it on:

To register, RSVP by August 10, 2014 to Yasmina Platt at 

Anyone interested may contact me with questions:

July 15, 2014 Strange cargo - freight on a plane

The Liberty Gazette
July 15, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike and Linda Ely

Mike: Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones comes running over a hill, dust flying from his clothes, waving his arms and shouting, "Get going, get going"?

His pilot is fishing off the wing of the float-equipped biplane when his serenity ends. The commotion gets his attention when he sees Indy running down the hill waving at him as dozens of natives charge over the ridge after him with spears and blowguns. Startled, the pilot tosses the fishing pole, jumps into the cockpit and starts up the plane.

Indy swims out just in time to grab the float, holding on as the plane becomes airborne. Sliding in to the cockpit he is surprised by the other "passenger" and screams to the pilot, "There’s a snake up here!"

The fact that it was a pet named Reggie didn’t dilute Indiana Jones’ hatred of snakes. Makes me think of other strange cargo I’ve known.

In a recent lively discussion with fellow former freight pilots the question arose, "What is the strangest cargo you have carried?"

After nearly 15 years of flying freight at all hours of the night, I’ve flown some strange cargo. I have carried dogs, cats and frozen bull semen, which is considered hazardous material due to special shipping requirements.

I offloaded 10 to 15 boxes of live Maine lobsters in Santa Barbara every morning for a couple years. Once while sliding a box of lobsters to the UPS driver, it missed him, flipped from the plane and split open on the ground; half a dozen dazed and not-so-happy red creepy things lethargically moving about. We corralled them without injury, their huge claws were banded. Seemed strange, shipping lobsters across the country since there are thousands in the Pacific Ocean.   

We flew a multi-million dollar missile guidance system from San Diego to Titusville, Florida by Learjet. A ten-man team took over an hour to carefully load it and set up monitoring equipment. The retrieval team ripped it out of the airplane in fewer than five minutes. So much for care in handling.

The pilots in the aforementioned discussion recalled similar cargo and some even more exotic - ostriches, penguins, sharks, komodo dragons, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and race horses. One of them even flew Willie the killer whale. Others said:

  "A big box of hamsters. Some got out!"

  "Baby crocodiles, loose, in an Brittan-Norman Islander. I figured if the croc hunter was prepared to sit down in the back with them it was OK, although some of them wound up under my feet a couple of times. I was younger then."

  "A case of live bees. Of course, half of them escaped and took their anger out on the loaders."

  "More boxes than you could shake a stick at on DC3. Full of WORMS. When my hearing came back after we shutdown (the noisy engines) you could hear a kind of slime noise. You think slime doesn't have a noise? Fly a million worms and say that."

Ah, my freight dog days. Stop it you guys...I'm getting all misty!

July 8, 2014 Dangerous Drones

The Liberty Gazette
July 8, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

If you read this space often you know we are not supporters of big government. Not even of medium government. And certainly not fans of most politicians who puppeteer the moves of the machine we call government. But in this case, we side with (gasp) the FAA. Don’t expect it to happen again though.

About seven years ago the FAA threw out the arresting cable to bring commercial drone flying to a halt. In our opinion they did not go far enough. Drones are drones and are no safer if operated by an employee of the machine than an employee of an entrepreneur.

So along comes this New York (strike one) lawyer (that’s worth two strikes), who steps up to the plate for’s planned delivery system, Amazon Prime Air, and says the most ridiculous, hair-brained thing: "It's a purported new legal basis telling people to stop operating model aircraft for business purposes." If I was Brendan Schulman’s mother he’d be spending the rest of his life in the dugout for that misguided statement. Wish we could stop the fountain of evidence that intelligence is not required for a law degree.

Mike: Did Brendan, or the folks at Amazon or anyone else stop to think about the severe consequences when those pesky robotic gnats are sucked into an airplane’s intake? Have they considered what it might be like to have your own skin thousands of feet in the air, a real pilot in a real aircraft and suddenly lose control because someone on the ground playing a video game had an "oops" moment?

Craig Whitlock’s piece in the Washington Post "‘Stop saying ‘uh-oh’ while you’re flying’: Drone crash pilot quotes unveiled" are words of warning. The publication’s yearlong investigation on drones has revealed facts that I hope scare you. Here are some of those quotes from Whitlock’s article that exposed recorded words uttered by Air Force gamers:

"This thing’s kind of climbing like a pig. Climb, you pig…Boy, this is going to be tight…Okay, interesting. We are falling out of the sky." Unidentified pilot of a Predator that crashed near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada on May 13, 2013

"Where the [expletive] is…where is the runway? It’s all the way over here. I overshot. Oh, [expletive]. I think we lost the engine. Oh, [expletive], oh [expletive], oh my God, what is that?...What was all that stuff I just hit?" Air Force Capt. Matthew Scardaci as his Predator crashed into a row of empty shipping containers at Kandahar Air Base on May 5, 2011.

"Stop saying ‘uh-oh’ while you’re flying. It’s never good. Like going to the dentist or a doctor…‘Oops? What the [expletive] you mean ‘Oops?’" Unidentified camera operator, to a habitually nervous Predator pilot right before he crashed on takeoff at Jalalabad Air Base on July 24, 2012.

"As the plane was going down, all I saw were tents and I was afraid that I had killed someone. I felt numb and I am certain that a few cuss words came out of my mouth." Maj. Richard Wageman to Air Force investigators examining the crash of a Predator at Kandahar Air Base on Nov. 2, 2008.

And these are the "experts". But drone manufactures want to reduce the requirements to qualify as drone pilots. How safe will the skies be when they unleash these deadly weapons into the National Air Space in 2015, as mandated by Congress?

July 1, 2014 Air Force One

The Liberty Gazette
July 1, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Covered in dust the tired old airliner sits in a dirt field in Arizona’s blazing sun. Occasionally blue smoke belches out of the exhaust stacks and the engines wheeze and pop to life as a small army of volunteers work to return this aircraft to airworthy condition. It has been over 15 years since the plane landed at this airport north of Tucson. Prior to that it only flew sporadically, at one time parked for 20 years in the airplane bone yard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. As the sweltering heat baked the aircraft it was sanded by dust devils and sand storms. Pieces were removed to make other airplanes fly. Then it awaited a slow death from the scrapper’s torch.

Built by Lockheed in 1948, this big, four-propeller-engine "Constellation" was delivered to the United States Air Force and designated a C-121A. The Military Air Transport Command flew military personnel in this "Connie" from New York to Keflavik, Iceland and back. Later she was modified and put back to work as a VC-121A, a VIP version of the military kind.

As a VIP carrier her passengers included the Secretary of the Air Force, Generals, Admirals, Statesmen, Kings, Queens and a President and flew under the call sign "Air Force 8610" (because the serial number was 48-610) until an incident in 1953 when the Air Force entered the same airspace as Eastern Airlines flight 8610 and the air traffic controller’s instructions became confusing. President Eisenhower happened to be on board, so attention to the critical nature of the confusion was escalated, leading to the creation of the call sign "Air Force One".

Since then, many airplanes have carried the name "Air Force One", now the designation of any Air Force aircraft the President is aboard. Likewise, any Marine Corps helicopter is designated Marine One when the President is on board.

President Eisenhower actually had three of those VIP Constellations, the first of which was his before he became President. He nicknamed them all "Columbine" because his wife Mamie was from Colorado, and the Columbine their state flower.

Where are they now? The original "Columbine" sits not far from the second one outside the wind-whipped Pima Air & Space Museum across the street from Davis-Monthan AFB. Columbine III is in the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

The Air Force had sold Columbine II to a man who does aerial spraying as part of a package deal, a lot of five airplanes. The buyer really wanted the four airplanes that were in relatively good condition, but that other one was in such poor shape they left it at the Air Force base to be stripped for parts.

Fast-forward about ten years. A researcher from the Smithsonian contacted the now retired aerial sprayer to see if he knew the location of that one old airplane. As it was, he still owned it and was surprised to discover its heritage. 

Another decade flew by before the old girl received new life and flew the airshow circuit for a time. Alas, she was then parked out in the elements again.

The future of the first "Air Force One" is unknown, but the caretaker hired by the current owner is looking for a museum willing to preserve this piece of history.

June 24, 2014 Special passengers

The Liberty Gazette
June 24, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Every four years athletes and coaches pile into corporate jets and fly to their events in the Olympics. What? Are these sponsors hoping to sign endorsement deals with these top flight athletes? No! These are very special athletes going to a very special event, the Special Olympics. This year is the seventh time the Citation Special Olympics Airlift is transporting hundreds of participants to the games, held in Trenton, New Jersey.

What started out in 1985 when Cessna Aircraft Company transported the Kansas delegations to the Olympics in Salt Lake City in a couple airplanes has now grown to more than one hundred airplanes transporting from 800 to 2000 Olympiads. After that first year many of Cessna’s customers asked to be included in the next Olympics and the Airlift was formed. Since Cessna’s parent company Textron bought Beechcraft last year, King Air owners and operators are also participating. Many Texas companies are among those donating their aircraft, crews and fuel.

This year’s 100-plus plane Airlift was coordinated extensively with the FAA, the 28 departure airports in 22 states and the Trenton-Mercer Airport where on June 14th an aircraft was landing or departing every two minutes. The planes were scheduled to return June 21 to take all the winners back home.

Several aviation organizations participate in or support charitable activities. Our Sport Air Racing League will have the great privilege of using our race to support Down Syndrome Indiana in the upcoming Indy Air Race (August 9, Indianapolis) and there are Challenge Air events around the country flying hundreds of severely handicapped "heroes" every year.

Linda: To families with loved ones living with Autism or Down Syndrome the thought of airplanes and airports is daunting. Huge strides are being made to help these special people handle busy airports, and reduce their confusion and fears.

The Dublin Airport, the main airport for the country of Ireland, has earned its reputation as the standard for passengers with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Helping them and their families handle the experience of traveling to and through an airport and the experience of flying has earned the airport great respect. For people with ASD, change is usually difficult so preparation is a major key to success in new adventures. To this end, the airport authority worked with Irish Autism Action to build a page on the airport website dedicated to helping individuals with ASD.

Families can now download visual guides with pictures and explanations of what the experience will be like and why they will go through it. This is a tremendous step forward. Families are creating journey books to prepare for their trips, helping their loved ones with ASD to become familiar with check-in gates, security check points, busyness and noise.

Thanks to a customer service manager at the Dublin Airport, Helen O’Connor, as word spreads this service is helping many families, even beyond the Dublin Airport. She offers well thought-out yet simple strategies to ASD families. Familiarity practice includes describing the situation or event, the possible or expected perspective of the person with ASD – meaning how they may feel about it – and providing clear direction as to how they should respond or behave in the given situation.

Of the many things we love about flying the aviation community is at the top of the list, and the dedication and compassion often demonstrated make us proud to be members.

June 17, 2014 A T-6 "Texan" flies over Liberty's D-Day parade

The Liberty Gazette
June 17, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: If you were in Liberty June 7, the Saturday after the D-Day anniversary, it’s unlikely you missed hearing and seeing James Bohannon flying his AT-6 "Texan", smoke streaming as he made passes overhead of the D-Day celebrations. Events that honor veterans and involve flying appeal to James, who comes from a family of aviators. His father was a mechanic in the Air Force and worked on AT-6s and B-29s at Randolph Air Force base in San Antonio, so the airplane he brought to Liberty has special meaning for him.

North American Aviation built the AT-6, an advanced trainer for pilots in the U.S. Army Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and the British Royal Air Force. The Navy called theirs the SNJ, and the Royal Air Force named theirs the Harvard; same airframe, just different configurations. The 450-horse single engine airplane’s military training life spanned from WWII into the 1970’s and then became a popular element in air shows and aerial demonstrations, including formation flights for commemorative events. AT-6 aircraft began racing at the National Air Races after WWII, and still race at the Reno Air Races today. Depending on who you ask, there were between 15,495 and 20,110 T-6s/SNJs/Harvards built between 1938 and 1954.

Bohannon’s North American AT-6 G model was built in 1944. His particular airplane never left home turf and later joined civilian life becoming an agricultural spray plane in northern Arkansas. James has several old pictures of his beloved trainer in civil duty, and of course, he knows its history.

After a rough life as an ag plane, it was rebuilt by its then-owner, a Delta Airlines pilot named Jim. The story goes that Jim met a former Air Force pilot in Arkansas who flew T-6s in the Mosquito squadron in Korea. He had pictures so Jim-the-Delta-pilot repainted then-his T-6 in the same paint scheme and performed with it in air shows. The flying Bohannon family bought it three years ago and stables it, along with the rest of their fleet at the Skydive Houston airport in Waller.

Linda: James Bohannon grew up in Tomball with high hopes of joining the military as a pilot. But by the time he graduated from Sam Houston State University, pilots weren’t needed so he went on to find work in the oil patch. After a few years as an engineer with TRW, he began his own oilfield services company. Now he keeps his son, daughters and a nephew busy as business partners in 5JAB Inc., an oil and gas services and engineering consulting company, and Corsair Well Service & Construction, named after his favorite airplane, the Vought F-4U Corsair.

As James flew toward the parade in Liberty he spotted a spray plane and they flew in formation for a while. The ag plane pilot wouldn’t have crossed town with a load of chemicals so he broke off to tend to his business over the fields, and James headed on toward the festivities. Being mindful of the fact that airplane noise can spook horses, James was careful to stay high enough not to startle those that were part of the parade. He’s flown many fly-overs, and loves to do it to honor vets; a tip of the hat to James for taking time out to enhance Liberty’s celebration.

June 10, 2014 The Checkered Flag in Kerrville, and Airplanes Everywhere Else

The Liberty Gazette
June 10, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: At the start of Memorial Day weekend a fellow Saturday morning propeller-head breakfast-goer suggested Kerrville as a destination. The annual folk festival would be one of five festivals there that weekend.

A little weather didn’t deter us but 25 phone calls to find lodging was becoming discouraging. These on-a-whim adventures can come with a few pitfalls, but we struck pay dirt when a Bed and Breakfast near Boerne had a sudden cancellation. Winding roads led us to the quaint spot that in the morning presented a beautiful view of rolling hills in the distance covered in clouds and mist.

Fred Egloff lives in Kerrville, too. He’s the guy we mentioned a few weeks ago who wrote "The Origins of the Checkered Flag". When he was in college he worked for Linda’s father in his foreign car dealership in Evanston, Illinois. Fred found Linda from an article in a racing history group and from their first phone call she had been eager to meet him. Mr. and Mrs. Egloff are a wonderful and entertaining couple. A tour of their home revealed three offices for research and writing: one dedicated to racing history, one for Western history, and a third to handle the overflow, along with his own personal aviation history learning to fly in a Piper Cub.

Linda: With fly-in season at open throttle the calendar is filling up like a thirsty airplane fuel tank. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has invited its 450,000 members and their friends to come to one of the regional events they’re hosting this flying season. The organization has traditionally held an annual fly-in and some folks would plan a vacation around it, but a lot of the membership can’t make the trip every year because no matter the location it’s too far for some. So AOPA’s new president, Mark Baker, along with his esteemed crew have filed a different flight plan: instead of one large annual shindig the aviation advocacy group has planned six regional fly-ins, to get closer to pilots’ home turf. Not only does this make the popular event more accessible, it showcases the aviation industry as an economic generator to more cities.

As a vendor at the first two, San Marcos and Indianapolis, I listened to pilots discuss what they liked about the regional idea. They fly a shorter distance, have a pancake breakfast, attend seminars, enjoy lunch, and walk around gazing at airplanes, talking with other aviation enthusiasts. What could possibly beat that?

The weather was less cooperative for the April gathering in San Marcos, keeping some pilots away, but was overall a success. Under sunny skies in Indy airshow pilot Billy Werth entertained the crowd in his Pitts biplane, pilots talked with vendors about products and services, and attended seminars on safety topics.

While the average non-pilot living in Liberty, Texas might wonder why the bravado over six regional fly-ins instead of one, consider the concept of getting back to the grass roots of an activity, advocating safety and growing the ranks. We’ve said before and we’ll say again, airports are for people who don’t fly. Sounds funny, but it’s true. We all benefit by having an airport that serves the community. This is part of the work of the AOPA, to help both politicians and real people learn the value of their local airport.

June 3, 2014 The Learjet

The Liberty Gazette
June 3, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike and Linda Ely

Mike: Someplace in the world atop an airport observation area airplane buffs watch as airliners come and go, making smooth transitions from ground bound to airborne vehicles. The passengers in those steel tubes are whisked away and the whining of the large fanjet engines is almost hypnotic. Something new rounds the distant corner and begins its journey down the long concrete path. Quickly reaching flying speed its nose pitches skyward and breaks ground with tremendous fury, something like a fighter jet, and screams high overhead with a thunderous roar leaving its audience in awe, wondering what it would be like fly in that jet.

Back in the early 1960s, Swiss immigrant William Lear introduced the little rocket to the world. The Learjet has become synonymous with the words "corporate jet" so much so that almost everyone for a time referred to any small jet as a "Learjet." Competitors entered the market – Gulfstream, Falcon, Cessna Citation, and others – but even with upgrades and continuous improvements, many having surpassed the basic Learjet in speed and luxury, none hold its mystique, none can claim its reputation.

Having had the pleasure of flying many types of corporate jets in many different flight environments my favorite will always be the sports-car-like-handling Learjet. Sliding into the cockpit through a narrow opening and into the seat, the windshield is only inches from my head. It is often joked that one can tell the pilot from the copilot by the tilt of their head. It’s an airplane one straps on and wears. My 8,000 hours flight experience in Learjets equates to more than one full year spent in the confines of the cramped Lear flight deck, but I love it and have flown passengers and cargo all over North America, the Caribbean and across the Atlantic in Learjets.

The Lear’s thin sharp wings, tip fuel tanks and narrow landing gear can be more than a handful. No other airplane I’ve flown handles like Lear. It is extremely responsive to any control input and can challenge new pilots, taking several hundred hours to acclimate. Many Lear pilots share my opinion that if a person can fly one of these, they can fly any jet. Eventually flying the Lear becomes second nature, "willing" the airplane where you want it to go.

A fast flyer, the Learjet races across the sky at 80 percent of the speed of sound, a little more than 500 mph. Capable of powerful climb rates, 6,000 to 7,000 feet per minute upward on take-off in a Lear is normal. Many times I’ve shot into the sky achieving a 37,000-foot cruise altitude less than 15 minutes after leaving the gate, and that’s not even a record. Neil Armstrong and Arnold Palmer set a world record in a Learjet, model 35a, of over 10,000 feet per minute.

These days Bill Lear’s invention is a product line of Bombardier, a company that builds several lines of aircraft. However it’s the Learjet that is the most recognizable brand name. The passengers in the back of these planes often thrill at the feeling of being squished into their seats and watching the world below shrink quickly as their missile shoots them skyward. First time riders amazed by the propulsion tell friends and family, "I flew in a Learjet!"