The Liberty Gazette
July 21, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: It’s that time of year again: AirVenture, the world’s largest fly-in, and the world’s largest convention of any kind. Thousands of aircraft are descending on the small city of Oshkosh this week, making the air traffic control tower in the little central Wisconsin town the busiest control tower in the world – for one week.
We didn’t have time to make the trip this year, but there will be other planes similar to ours, the Grumman Cheetah, and its kin. There will be small home-built airplanes and helicopters, timeless warbirds, the Flying Hospital and military and airline planes, and balloons and ultralights, and fast planes and slow planes. There will be the ones that race the AirVenture Cup in excess of 325 mph, and the Piper Cubs with no doors and no radios yet just as at home in the sky as any airplane ever conceived; as at home in the blue yonder as the clouds that dot the canvas.
Every year at AirVenture the Bede Aircraft Company has planes on display, and plans for sale so you can build your own. The little jet that looks like a toy is their most famous model, the BD-5J, one of the stars of a James Bond movie.
Remember a 007 film where a little jet landing on a road takes the next exit and coasts to a gas station?
Corkey Fornof, noted Hollywood action pilot, built and flew the BD-5J in that movie. We met Corkey several years ago, and heard the rest of the story of that 007 scene. Unreal as it seems, the events that took place in the Bond film were written into the script when Corkey shared his own real life adventures with the producers.
Like the lead character, Fornof had faced an emergency landing, the only safe place to land being a highway right below him. He touched down on the road, veered off an exit ramp and coasted right up to a gas station pump.
Linda: Fornof has been a spokesperson for Bede Aircraft and for LoPresti, a company that makes speed modifications, some of which are installed on The Elyiminator. When I ran into Corkey again at AirVenture a couple of years ago I thanked him for painting “Yippee!” across the bottom of his bright yellow Lo Presti Fury, because it had inspired me to convince Mike to paint “STUCK IN TRAFFIC?” across the bottom of our plane, and for that, Corkey kissed my hand.
But there’s much to say about the engineer who designed the celebrity jet. Jim Bede’s designs became the popular airplanes of the Grumman and American Aircraft companies, starting with the Yankee, his original BD-1. They were fast, affordable planes that any private pilot could fly. A few generations of Grumman models later, the Cheetah took over the spotlight. And although Jim Bede wasn’t directly involved in creating the Cheetah, it bears the genealogy of its ancestor, the BD-1.
It’s that time of year again, AirVenture, the world’s largest fly-in, and the world’s largest convention of any kind. But this time Jim Bede isn’t be there. Jim passed away last week. He was 82.
As thousands of aircraft are descending on the small city of Oshkosh this week, Corkey’s famous little jet is up for sale. I think the new buyers should celebrate by landing on a highway (closed to traffic, of course), rolling down an exit ramp, and coasting to a gas station, just for the thrill of it, with a nod to Jim and Corkey.