The Liberty Gazette
March 17, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Malachi is one of six children. He is a normal six-year old boy in every way; he just happens to have a very serious medical condition. To get from their home in Iowa to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York Malachi’s family relies on the generosity of businesses with a few empty seats on their corporate jets, an idea that was given life by a very determined woman.
95-year old Pat Blum stood before the crowd at this year’s conference of Women in Aviation International and spoke of the nearly 600 companies providing 3,000 flights per year.
Every year the Women in Aviation International conference draws both men and women seeking growth in their chosen field through new employment, attending seminars, and building relationships.
Some of the most powerful women in America were among the keynote speakers. Inspiration came from Southwest Airlines President Emeritus Connie Barrett; Corporate Angel Network Founder, Pat Blum; Boeing’s President in Brazil and Latin America, Donna Hrinak; and the U.S. Air Force’s Director of Air Superiority Systems, Heather "Lucky" Penney.
These and other highly accomplished women sent messages to the thousands of attendees that encouraged us all to never give up, no matter what life throws our way.
Many other industries have annual conferences where they bring in the heavy-hitters who attract the crowds and make the event shine, but the line-up of amazing women at this year’s Women in Aviation conference is hard to beat.
I jumped in as a pinch hitter to give a presentation on our company’s app for pilots – ForeFlight – after our scheduled speaker had fallen ill. All went well, as pilots love our app and our company is surely the hippest and most friendly of all, and offers the very best mobile flight planning solution ever. Makes it easy for me to give a presentation – they already love us.
As I wrapped up the forum the room would be turned over to the next speaker. That was Heather Penney. If you aren’t familiar with her, let us give you just a glimpse into this young woman’s accomplishments.
Mike: Penney was one of two F-16 pilots who were ordered to take down United Airlines Flight 93 before it reached Washington, D.C. airspace on 9/11. For weeks after that dreadful date she flew combat air patrols over the capital and began preparing for war.
These days she can be found training Air Force pilots and working with a developmental program incorporating simulators, synthetic threat environments, and live-action training operations that challenge the next generation of Air Force pilots. In her off-time she enjoys flying the B-17G called Nine O Nine, and even flies a small plane of her own, a Cessna 170A.
Linda: On the other end of the spectrum was Pat Blum. Pat started Corporate Angel Network when she realized as a cancer patient and pilot that there were a lot of empty seats on corporate jets. She believed that if those companies were willing, those seats could be used to help people.
She wrote to the CEOs of every company in the Fortune 1500, and when the first one responded and offered to challenge his counterparts to join in this worthy effort, Pat’s dream became a reality.
This is true leadership, as demonstrated by Pat Blum, who started what is now one of the most recognized and successful public benefit aviation charities in the world, and Heather Penney, who is committed to keeping our nation safe from harm.