The Liberty Gazette
October 21, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Our recent trip westward brought new experiences and new friends. Landing in Chino, California, the place where all this flying business began for Mike, as we were marshaled into a parking spot we learned a bit too late that the area was not cleared as three small wooden chocks caught up in prop wash began a dance that would make Simon Cowell grant a perfect score. Unfortunately, a few chunks of paint departed the airplane during the chock dance. Fortunately, the FBO graciously had the area repainted for us during our stay in the Golden State.
Several days later we returned and met Eveline who, along with her husband, owns Century Aircraft. They had repainted the nose wheel cover.
Her Austrian accent was thick enough to be lovely, thin enough that her words were easily understood. We talked about our rescue dogs, the Berlin Wall, the weather, and of course, airplanes. Consider this, because it came up in our conversation: if you just learned you were chatting with an Austrian, what would be your first association? Would it be Arnold Schwarzenegger? Adolf Hitler?
As it turned out, mine was Niki Lauda, the Formula One champion race driver of my youth, more recently the subject of the movie "Rush". I was a huge Niki Lauda fan as a kid. Growing up in an auto racing family how could I not be? I loved Lauda. I rooted for him every race and wrote him a get-well letter when he had that horrific crash. I used to do that a lot when I was little, and some time I’ll share the story of taping a nickel to a get well card when I was five – but on with the story.
Eveline, herself a mega Formula One fan who watches every race on TV and then calls her dad for a post-race analysis, beamed as my association question sunk in:
"Oh, Austria, as in Niki Lauda?"
It was refreshing to her that for once she was not faced with another Schwarzenegger association, or worse, being asked about the days of Hitler. The lady is a generation after Hitler; not that she doesn’t know the evil that happened, but it can’t be enjoyable to be assumed to be a generation older than one is. But back to the story.
She phoned her husband, Mike, who was down the way in a hangar, and asked him to bring their lovely rescue dog so we could swap dog stories as we loved on him – the dog, that is – and we visited way too long and it made us late leaving and we didn’t make our planned destination that night, but we did make new friends. And, I learned that Niki Lauda is a commercial pilot and founded two airlines, Lauda Air and Niki.
According to Eveline, back home Niki is known for being a spendthrift. So much so that he is often called to advertise low cost goods to emphasize, "even Niki Lauda would buy this".
I liked Niki because he was a formidable competitor, admiring him because he never backed down. My new friend Eveline admires him too.
If it weren’t for cluttered parking spaces and dancing chocks, and nice people who help, I might never have known Niki Lauda founded two airlines, and I would not know my new friend Eveline. Things just seem to turn out okay sometimes.