The Liberty Gazette
March 10, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: When Linda and I fly to some far corner of the country whether for a fall foliage tour of New England, a summer trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit family and friends, or journeying to a race someplace else, we share the flying and navigating duties. Oft times pilots lament that their favorite flying companions don’t share their enthusiasm for flying, while the family often wishes the pilot would stay home more. Where might they find that neutral ground?
Linda: Last August the pilot companion course, known as "Pinch Hitter", was such a big hit the room was filled and we had to turn people away. We knew the need was there, and we would soon be hosting another course. Now the next one is on the calendar: April 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lonestar Executive Airport in Conroe.
The flying companion course teaches the non-pilot how to participate in the flight activities and learn more about flying, and airplanes in general. Hands-on training in an airplane from a certificated flight instructor can be arranged separately from this course.
The course fee ($55) pays for materials and lunch catered by the Black Walnut Cafe, which is there at the airport. The instructors and presenters are all volunteers who get excited about introducing people to flying.
Planning the course offers its own unique challenges and sometimes the dates that work for us conflict with other events, even at the same airport. Such was to be the case for this course on April 4; the Saturday of Easter weekend two events will be bustling at the airport in Conroe: in addition to the Pinch Hitter course, the Hometown Festival of Flight will be hosted by the group, Everything Albatross. Rather than conflict though, the two activities actually complement each other.
The pilots will now have something fun to do while their favorite flying companion is attending the course. A large collection of airplanes and helicopters will be on display for all to see up close and to meet the pilots and others who keep Montgomery County's aviation community a vibrant one. There will be fun activities for the whole family, and they’re only asking for a minimum donation of $3.00 per person.
Mike: Everything Albatross gets its name from the Grumman HU-16C Albatross, a post-WWII large twin-engine amphibious aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard from the late 1940s to the 1990s.
The Albatross has long been a favorite of mine. Like the venerable WWII-era Consolidated PBY it replaced, the Albatross was used for extended patrols over the open waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Gulf, it’s primary mission being search and rescue.
The Everything Albatross group owns two of the beasts, one flying and one in the restoration process, dubbed Zeus and Pegasus.
A special guest at the event will be Kevin Lacey, star of the Discovery Channel series, Airplane Repo. Mr. Lacey is an ardent promoter of aviation and loves meeting people and talking about airplanes.
Linda: It’s a perfect match: Flying Companion course plus Hometown Festival of Flight equals something for everyone.
You don’t have to take the flying companion course to come out to the Conroe airport and meet the Everything Albatross Flight Crew and see Zeus up close. It’s open to all. Hope to see you there!