The Liberty Gazette
January 27, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: It was the late 1960's and Roy Ion had just transferred to Beaumont for work. He was single, renting an apartment off 11th Street, and looking for some weekend fun.
Roy: I thought about renting a Cessna 152 to log time so maybe I could get a commercial license and be an airline pilot someday, but renting seemed an unnecessary expense. Then browsing ads in the paper one day this caught my eye: "1946 Aeronca 7 Champion AC for Sale. Low time since last annual. Call for price." I called.
"$800," he said. "And it's ready to go."
"Really? Does it fly?"
"Of course. Come over, I'll take you up."
My new lady friend, Linda, agreed to drive me there so off we went, west on Highway 90. It was a nice day for a ride in a convertible, and she really was cute. Neat curl on her lips when she smiled. The wind was blowing her brownish blond hair all over. Gee am I staring? I quickly looked out at the scenery – not much in this part of Texas.
In about 45 minutes we arrived at this nice little airport in Liberty. There was the Aeronca, freshly painted orange, waiting for its new owner to take it into the wild blue yonder.
A slightly chunky man appeared in grease-stained coveralls and chewing something. "Are you Roy?"
"Yeah, and this is the plane, right?"
"Yep, let’s take it up," he said. "You fly."
I gave it power and after a little sputter she lifted off, working hard with our 400 pounds on board.
"What did you say the horsepower was on this engine?"
"Sixty-five," he said with a funny expression.
"Sixty-five, I knew that."
After a quick trip around the pattern we landed, I paid him, and took off.
Linda beat my 65-horsepower back to Beaumont but that was okay, I wanted cheap flying time and I got it.
The week went by and I wanted to fly my new little plane but the weather looked iffy. No one was at the airport, and I figured the cloud cover could be 1,000 feet. However, upon reaching 800 feet I was in the clouds. That was scary. I dropped down to 600 and decided this wasn’t a good day to fly.
"Just one touch and go and I’ll call it quits," I told myself. Turning final I saw a guy standing on the runway waving his arms.
What’s he trying to tell me? Not to land? Is the FAA down there, knowing I was flying beyond my competency, and violating the rules? I’ve been caught. I’m screwed.
I looked down to my left, then my right, and, Oh no! No right wheel! Now what?
I have to land. I don't have a choice. I'll make a power-on wheel landing on the grass and hold it off the ground as long as possible. That’s it. Do it. Worst case…it can't be that bad, right?
OK… coming around... there’s a grassy landing spot next to the runway. Here we go…nice an’ easy... power on…but dropping ever so lightly...down...down...focus now...this is it...now! Touch...no bounce...nice...hold down...left rotate...keep the right wing up...keep it up...no more lift...right wing’s hitting the grass...dragging now. That's it!
The little orange Aeronca slowly turned right on its wingtip, dug into the dirt, and stopped. It wasn’t a crash; it was a controlled landing, made by an inexperienced, dangerous, week-end pilot, but, with a happy ending.
I learned to be more thorough on pre-flight and, by the way, I did go on to get my Instrument Rating.