The Liberty Gazette
October 7, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Eight years after by-pass surgery Roger Peterson returned to flying. With the advent of the Sport Pilot license and the lighter medical restrictions he is able to fly in the U.S. under certain conditions. But this meant someone else would have to be the pilot in command when the Petersons went to their summer home in Canada.
Alverna Peterson had some flying lessons years before, but raising a family took priority. Now that they were empty nesters she had time to finish her training. A couple of months before her 65th birthday, "Al" earned her private pilot license and became the pilot in command for every summer trip north of the border, whether in the couple’s Cessna 172, their Piper J-3 Cub, or Piper PA-11.
"If this old lady can do it, anyone can," she chuckles. We like to call her our modern day "Sky Queen".
Linda: A few years ago the fire chief of Old Ocean got a call from the Texas Department of Public Safety. They needed help and they needed it fast. Four or five barges had gotten loose and were missing somewhere on the Brazos River. They had to be found and stopped before they hit a bridge.
It was Thanksgiving Day when Chief Craig Peterson got the call: "No," he replied, "I don’t own an airplane, but my parents do."
"He called and asked for his dad," Al recalls. "I told him his dad had gone fishing and wouldn’t be back for awhile. That’s when he asked if I’d fly the plane to help him find these barges!"
She loves telling the story.
Craig rushed over to his parents’ home and he and his mom hopped into the J-3 Cub and took off. Flying over the Brazos River they searched for the missing barges for an hour, in constant communication with authorities until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopters arrived to take over.
"While I was out fish-fishing, she was out barge-fishing," laughs Roger, who has been a pilot for more than 50 years.
We became acquainted with Roger and Al at the Reklaw fly-in. They are typical of the retired couples we’ve met who enjoy their time traveling by air. While general aviation attracts all ages, it’s especially encouraging to meet someone who has the courage and snap to learn to fly as a senior citizen.
Mike: That reminds me of a man I met in Nogales, Arizona years ago, a retiree flying with his dog in his Piper Cherokee. Lots of retirees travel the country in motor homes, but this man was flying to all the places he and his wife had wanted to visit but didn’t make it to before she passed away. So the widower and his faithful dog were seeing North America by light plane.
With the FAA’s Light Sport Aircraft classification and the Sport Pilot Certificate it’s now much easier and more affordable to attain a pilot license. For some, it’s the best retirement, for others, the best therapy.