formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

December 27, 2016 Virtual Reality - and Good Luck!

The Liberty Gazette
December 27, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Mom sends the most interesting gifts. To our door last week came another box filled with thoughtful surprises for each of us: a book about the history of Icelandic sagas, to commemorate our recent trip there, and a small Coach pouch for me; a Virtual Reality (VR) head set for Mike. The tasty Kind bars, in fruit and chocolate flavors are for us to share.

Mom’s voice in dry wit comes through in the accompanying note card. “Mike, you can Google to find plenty of apps for your new toy. Linda, good luck with the book!” Fortunately, the sagas are in English. Mom’s choice is smarter than what I did when I bought books in Iceland as gifts for the grand kids. Mostly, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”, and the Berenstain Bears books, the one about going to school and the one about visiting the dentist (“...ULP - a yanker!”) were for my grown daughters. I doubt they can read the Icelandic versions of these, but seeing some of their old favorites in a different language, I thought, might be fun. My sister’s family didn’t escape my Icelandic book-buying frenzy; for them, a huge hardback about Vikings. Perhaps my note should have been like Mom’s note to me: “Good luck with the book!”

Whether she never checked and assumed the sagas were not in English, or whether she figured they would be too far outside my reading preference for non-fiction, I will try to find out after she recovers enough from a knee replacement to be her happy, chatty self again. Full knee replacements at nearly age 84 cause a lot of pain, but sending her pictures of Mike ‘wearing’ the gift she sent for him made her happy for a moment.

Mike: The VR visor is an advancement of the three-dimensional View-Master. Remember looking through the binocular-like viewer at pictures on cardboard disks, rotating the trigger lever on the side of the viewer? Instead of a picture disk I secure my smart phone in a compartment in the VR unit and strap the whole contraption around my head. I’ve cued up to a VR video on my phone, and as Mom said, there are apps for it, too, but I prefer videos for real world views over computer-generated app graphics.

For my introductory experience, my “discovery flight” of this VR visor, I select the 360-degree video taken during a real flight with the Blue Angels, available on YouTube. I ride along, we’re flying in the “slot” position, the back corner of the Angels’ signature diamond formation. From this full perspective I feel I could reach out and almost touch the other F/A-18 Hornets’ wingtips flying mere inches from each other and from me. Instinctively, I brace my body for the blood-draining G-forces as we dive earthward and execute breathtaking aerobatic maneuvers. I never feel the G’s; my mind plays tricks on me. We roll upside down, I tilt my head up, then look down into another Angel’s cockpit suspended in formation below me as the world scoots by beneath us.

Craning my neck, I scan my surroundings. I turn and take stock of the guy in the seat behind me, and forward again, looking down on the pilot’s bee-yellow helmet. My vantage point is as a fly suspended in the air between them. I am, magically, “in” the camera, with a 360-degree view.

Man, what a ride! Thanks, Mom!

December 20, 2016 When life's disappointments can't keep a good man down

The Liberty Gazette
December 20, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. For Mike Rawls, thirty years away from flying only deepened his love and strengthened his commitment to returning to the air. Now this people-loving man is enjoying retirement breathing the air of aviation, at the Liberty Municipal Airport. I can’t think of a better greeter and representative of Liberty as visitors land at our city’s front door.

Mike: Yearning to fly, high energy and perfectionism were the recipe for motivation for Rawls as a youngster. His stint at the family’s restaurant, The San Jacinto Inn, began when he was just 14, making $3.50 a day, “And $7.00 on Sundays. I loved that job.”

He worked to fund his flying, but buying an airplane was beyond the family’s budget. “Dad bought me a motorcycle that didn’t run. But a week later, it was running,” he grins.

Rawls knows he’s blessed with a gift for mechanical aptitude. By age 18 he was the head mechanic at Stubbs Cycles in Houston, was buying motorcycles with his own money, and competing in, and winning, races. It was, however, was a diversion, a consolation.

“I was 16 when a friend took me to this Cessna place at Hobby to get a demo flight.” Galvanized, he had a private pilot license by age 17. “I planned to earn the rest of my pilot ratings in the military and then fly for the airlines. I took survival training, and even rode in the back seat of an A-6.”

His passion for flying, however, couldn’t change his height, and the U.S. Marines denied Rawls’ application for a waiver for acceptance into pilot training. “Military pilots had to be between 5’7” and 6’3”. I’m 5’4”.”

Without sufficient funds for further civilian training to apply for an airline job, Rawls turned to the excitement of motorbikes and found success, sponsorship, and his wife, Pam. Life was fun, but after seven years traveling the racing circuit it was time to settle down, and eventually he went to work for Dow Chemical, and stayed for 32 years.

“Plant jobs are 4-on, 4-off. You can spend money or make it on your time off,” he explains as the impetus for the shop at his home, Lawn Mower Clinic, where he worked on over 27,000 pieces of equipment during those same 32 years.

Newly retired from both jobs, there’s now more time for flying and building. The RV-6 airplane kit he bought 15 years ago is still not completed - the curse of perfectionism - so he bought a damaged Cessna Cardinal listed on eBay. He’d fix it up and fly it until his RV-6 was completed.

“That Cardinal on the lowboy got a lot of stares on the way back from Oklahoma,” he recalls of less confident observers. “The fuel and hydraulic lines looked like spaghetti - but only if you look at it that way. It’s only going to go back together one way.”

Linda: Soon after acquiring the Cardinal heart problems further delayed his plans, but never dampened his will. After three catheters, triple bypass surgery, and removal of a benign tumor, his health has returned and he’s passed the FAA medical exam, free to fly again.

Today the Rawls’ live at the airport, where Mike mows, fixes runway lights, and greets customers. His wife is learning to like flying, and some day when they’re ready, he looks forward to taking his grandchildren flying, too.

Youngest son, Jake, is the guitarist for punk band, Kemo for Emo. “I think ‘Emo’ has to do with emotion, you know, like music is medicine for emotions.”

About his own emotional connection to flying, Rawls says, “I never lost my desire to fly. I wouldn’t be airline pilot, but general aviation is great; I can go where I want, on my own time. I didn’t fly for 30 years and now I can. I’m like a kid with a new toy.” 

December 13, 2016 Plane Truth

The Liberty Gazette
December 13, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Germans are known for great classical music, beer, and time pieces. While still in Germany Jacob Brodbeck built a self-winding clock, and years later while living in Texas, in 1869, he designed an ice-making machine. But the details and the truth of what happened in the years in between are as foggy as Highway 90 through Crosby in the morning this time of year.

They say he traveled the country in search of new investors for his biggest invention after the original three backed out. He may have gone by wagon, or on horseback, though most likely by train, but I bet he wished he was flying instead. Some say while in Michigan, not too far from where Mrs. Wright would soon give birth to Wilbur and then Orville, his papers with design details were stolen. Maybe the sabotage was it, the last straw, the end for Jacob’s air ship idea.

Mike: Upheaval in our country led to hostility and bloodshed. Citizens sought to make America great again and there were many ideas on how that would happen. Discoveries in agriculture, changing thoughts on immigration, and innovation in transportation were frequent topics of conversation. The Civil War had torn families and our land apart, and now that it was over healing was needed so that We, the People, could get on with building a great nation.

Linda: Jacob Brodbeck worked as a school teacher to feed his dozen children and beautiful wife, but the inventor in him would never settle for what we may perceive as a domesticated life.

From about 1845 to 1865 he developed his concept of an air ship, studying the flight of birds, the wind and the air, with great German diligence, precision, and care, because some day, he said, he could envision man using “the atmospheric region as the medium of his travels.” When he walked to the school house, when he helped his children with their studies, and when he served as county commissioner, he thought about his air ship. Finally in 1865 Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. The bloodshed was over. It was time to fly.

Mike: The engine relied on coil springs to power the propeller, like a clock – a self-winding clock mechanism used on an air ship. Despite sufficient documentary proof of flight, there are claims that it flew once, just outside Luckenbach, or maybe San Antonio, 12 feet up in the air, for about 100 feet. Unable to recoil the springs in time, his creation was destroyed by the hard landing. The three investors walked away from the failed flight, leaving Jacob without further support.

What happened in the four years between that first flight and the re-direction of his inventive mind to an ice-making machine? I imagine there was sadness, frustration, and anger when he found no one else to support his idea. But I can also believe in his resolve to keep inventing.

With all those children, Jacob has several descendants, and it would be a great historical find if one of them happened upon some old family documents that have been tucked away all these years, and could prove that first manned flight occurred in Texas, nearly 40 years before Wilbur and Orville flew at Kitty Hawk.

December 6, 2016 A New Love

The Liberty Gazette
December 6, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: We’re blessed with friendships with some amazing people we admire for their compassion, faithfulness, intelligence, wisdom, and talent. Yasmina Platt is one of these. Her schoolteacher parents moved from the Canary Islands to the U.S. when Yasmina was in high school because she wanted to learn to fly. Mature beyond her years, Yas earned her Certificated Flight Instructor certificate and a Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning by the age of 24. Now, just a few years later, and having made a big splash in the aviation industry nationwide through significant legislation and lobbying work, Yas is bubbling with elation over her new-found love – flying helicopters.

Throughout her helicopter training this summer she was giddy with infectious excitement. Every time we chatted I saw and heard the wonder and passion as she’d tell about her most recent flight lesson. I guess that’s why she says she’s “fallen in love all over again … learned to fly all over again.”

Yasmina: The differences between airplane and helicopter flying are immense. So much so that it does not feel like transition training; it feels like learning to fly all over again. The most obvious difference is that the pilot sits on the right side versus the left to free the left hand to manipulate switches, and more easily conduct right-hand traffic patterns, keeping away from left-traffic airplanes at airports. Let me explain a few of the lessons I learned.

Helicopter pilots’ hands and feet are occupied at all times, but perhaps more critically around the airport environment and especially when taxiing or maneuvering low to the ground. During my first or second lesson I was practicing hovering and pedal turns (turning around the center of gravity, without moving forward, backward, or to either side) up and down a taxiway when an airplane turned toward us. We immediately got out of the way and hovered over the grass, parallel to the airplane, letting them taxi past us. The pilot waved at us. Lesson #1: Helicopter pilots are not rude if they don’t wave back. They just may not be able to. Their left hand is on the collective, the right one is on the cyclic, and they cannot let go!

There are also differences in aircraft capabilities and limitations: Lesson #2. Yes, helicopters are incredibly capable but I was surprised to learn all their limitations. I mean, really surprised. They are not quite as “superman” as I thought. Consider aerodynamics.

The four principles of flight - weight, gravity, thrust, and drag - apply to both all aircraft; however, helicopters have a dizzying list of additional aerodynamic principles and limitations, such as dynamic rollover, ground resonance, tail rotor drift, dissymmetry of lift, transverse flow effect, blow back, translational lift, and much more. Thank you, Leonardo da Vinci, Juan de la Cierva y Codorniu and Igor Sikorsky, for all your hard work to create helicopters. You had a LOT to overcome!

It’s hard to come up with a favorite helicopter maneuver, but I enjoy those things I can’t do in an airplane. For example, pirouettes (flying in one direction, at hover altitude, while rotating around oneself) – challenging but lots of fun. For a while, I just wanted to do autorotations (simulated engine-outs). There’s something about dropping 600-800 feet in just seconds that I find amusing.

Mike: Whether she’s practicing an emergency maneuver or dancing in the sky, Yasmina’s love affair has given her a fresh new perspective on flying. “Helicopters are more expensive, versatile, and challenging than airplanes,” she says, beaming, “but nothing worthwhile comes easy in life.”

November 29, 2016 Where's Liberty's Heart?

The Liberty Gazette
November 29, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

While pumping gas in my nondescript sedan an old green pickup truck drove by. Not just old, but beautifully restored, a classic Ford that caught the eye of most everyone filling their tanks, all of us watching it as it turned the corner. To me, the sign on the side of the truck held even more significance: Dunham Field. That’s an airport in Crosby, privately owned but open to the public. It doesn’t boast long paved runways, but does offer fuel, and aircraft hangars in an area where they are in short supply. Few people other than the locals and some of the pilots based there would know of its existence except for that truck, the airport’s small budget marketing tool.

Marketing is important for any business, public or private. Good airport managers know fuel prices are the tip of the iceberg when attracting business, and good service keeps customers coming back. Many choose a marketing strategy through social media, continuously getting their airport out there in front of the public with information updates and interesting trivia.

We selected our fuel stop on the way to an air race in South Carolina because Kim Scarbrough, the conspicuously pro-active airport manager for Clarke County Airport in Quitman, Mississippi, heavily markets the airport among the flying community. Kim asks for a photo shoot of visitors with their plane and posts the photos on the airport’s Facebook page and on the airport Wall of Fame in the terminal.

Clarke County Airport does not offer self-service fuel pumps, rather, it is assisted service, and prices are competitive so pilots will detour a bit to save a few dollars. Normal business hours end at 5:00 pm but since Kim and her family live on airport property, as Jose and Debbie Doblado did here in Liberty, with few exceptions they can accommodate later flyers. We called ahead when we left South Carolina, knowing we’d be later than 5:00 and were met by Kim’s husband Tim, with a pleasant conversation as he helped us fuel.

Another airport we frequent is Benson Municipal Airport in Arizona. Roy Jones has a different way of making an impression. He, too, lives on airport property and provides the fueling services, but Roy gives discounts if you share a clean joke, something he isn’t afraid to tell around his five children. He takes a personal interest in each person who passes through and makes every attempt to meet their needs.

We wrote recently about Garth Baker, the manager of the Jerome County Airport in Idaho, who, similarly to Kim Scarbrough, provides a friendly face and lends a hand not only when people land at the airport, but promotes the airport with such class that aviators naturally want to stop in and meet him.

The right marketing attracts the attention of the flying public, reaching the goals and fulfilling the purpose of having an airport - a community asset that serves its own by being part of the pulse of life, bringing people, goods, and services to and from the community. For that reason, the face of the airport, the person who greets pilots and passengers, is the heartbeat of the community’s front door. Jose and Debbie were that heartbeat here in Liberty. Note the above examples are small community airports with small budgets. It’s past time for Liberty to bring heart back to the community, and put the welcome mat out again.

November 22, 2016 Timeless Tech

The Liberty Gazette
November 22, 2016
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

As a diversion after the end of air racing season Mike and I drove to the George R. Brown Convention Center to check out the Houston Mini Maker Faire. Lots of airplanes are amateur-built from plans or kits; we were curious - would there be any airplane companies represented?

To our surprise not all the booths were filled, and the crowd was fairly light. Granted, we went after church on a Sunday, but seeing several empty booths was disappointing. Would people rather be glued to their electronic devices, not exercising creative brain juices? Was the weather just so great that everyone was outside instead? Had most people already visited this Maker Faire during previous exhibitions? Whatever the reason or reasons, what we found was an overwhelming majority of the booths representing drone makers and 3-D printing manufacturers. They were there in abundance, with a few laser wood cutters and creative activities for kids.

No airplanes though.

Indoor drone racing through an obstacle course using virtual reality 3-D goggles attracted a small crowd of curious gamers. We couldn't help but shudder at the thought of one of those little metal insects straying into airport airspace and impacting an airplane, so we visited with some of the representatives selling their products. The good news is that all with whom we spoke were adamant that the FAA regulations pertaining to drone operation must be followed, but they all agreed that there are people "out there" who violate safety regulations and pose a threat to others.

On a more palatable note, the more pilot-friendly 3-D printing industry is fast-growing with fascinating products being made - even pizza!

Best of all, we ran in to our friend Lance Borden, owner of Borden Radio Company.

Mike: Lance is a fellow pilot and aircraft mechanic with the advanced FAA Inspector Authorization. He's specialized in avionics, having learned a great deal during his time in Laos during the Vietnam War, and afterward in working in avionics shops, Boeing, and NASA.

His radio business is booming, too, and his grandchildren help as production assistants.

Borden Radio Company sells vintage radio kits all over the globe, and schools, families, and organizations choose from a list of kits to build their own radios - from crystal radios, and “GI razor blade” models used in foxholes during WWII, to devices that will pick up several AM and Short Wave radio stations from far away, to tuners, antennae and amplifiers. Lance will even restore your antique radio.

His grandfather was an airplane designer and builder, and with the wealth of history standing there in that one booth, in this one man, I thought about the contrast to every other exhibitor and all the latest high-tech gadgets around the exhibit hall. Here was tech restored, reliable, educational, and valuable – timeless.

We picked up two kits for the two family sets of grand kids. Some of them are old enough now to read the directions and build these radios. You can order kits at

Linda: The 2016 Sport Air Racing League season came to a close in Taylor, Texas a couple of weeks ago, with the Elyminator winning the championship again. “The Fastest Cheetah in the Known Universe” has been good to us, and will get a little rest in the nest – but not for too long. Soon, it will be time for another gypsy trip. We’ll flip a coin and see where the good weather takes us.

November 15, 2016 These boxes change lives

The Liberty Gazette
November 15, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The boxy little airplane banks 45-degree to the right, heading somewhere important, symbolizing so much more than its little airplane self - travel by truck, canoe, even human feet to reach remote villages. Millions of boxes packed with joy and love wing their way to children around the globe.

This is national collection week. It takes little time to pack a shoe box. It takes little money to fill it with items to which you probably never give a second thought. This week you and we can take that little time, spend that little money, and fill a little box with something that will send a message of hope and love. You can even do it online.

Operation Christmas Child shoe box stories will make your heart smile. We’d like to share one in the hope that you will be moved to read more, soaking in the proof that your arms can be His, reaching around the world.

Retold, from Alina was five years old when she received a shoe box, at first confused that someone who didn’t know her would send a gift. There were ponytail holders, a toothbrush, socks, candy, and a pair of plastic princess shoes. She loved pink and says that although the shoes were too big, she wore them and showed them to everyone. In the box was also a photograph of a little girl the same age as Alina.

She was wearing a tiara that matched the shoes I received. Her gift to me became so personal—I felt like I connected with her.

Before I received the shoe box, I was really discouraged because of the way I was treated for my faith in Jesus. A lot of my teachers lowered my grades for no other reason than they didn’t like me. One time, my teacher grabbed my sweater and pushed me against the wall, demanding, “Where is your Jesus now?”

I remember that so vividly. At that moment I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is He? Why is He allowing this to happen?” It felt like God was very distant, very far away from me.

The shoe box was a representation of His love to a five-year-old girl. I no longer felt like Jesus had abandoned me.

The box was an act of kindness that represented hope, comfort, and the fact that God is watching over me. My perception of God changed. He became a personal Father to me.

After I received the shoe box, the persecution I experienced for my faith in Him didn’t stop. But my reaction to it was different because of the way God had revealed Himself to me. No longer did it feel like He was looking down at me from far away—He was walking right beside me.

She writes that 13 years later, she remembers what it was like to receive a shoe box - like God was there, with her gift, and now inspiring her to “tell children, especially orphans, the Good News of Jesus and to help them feel His love.”

Alina and her family came to America and she now volunteers at a collection center that receives what she calls, “a tangible representation of Jesus’ love for me and millions of kids around the world. These boxes change lives.”

First Baptist Church in Dayton is one of the drop zones, and you can find others, along with more stories at

November 8, 2016 A Sculpted Life

The Liberty Gazette
November 8, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

: Raising four boys in Huntsville, Texas in the 1920’s and 30’s while running the only appliance-record store in town must have been both amusing and challenging for Cecil and Marie Adickes: Bob, Bill, David, and Fred - creator of Mattel’s Hot Wheels - each would make their mark.

By age 16 Bob had traded a horse for an Indian (the motorcycle), which he then traded for flying lessons in a Piper Cub at Huntsville Municipal Airport. Bill and David followed, but while David liked flying it was less a passion in him than he witnessed in his older brothers. His aviation path would unfold differently.

When the enlistment obligation came calling Bob chose the Navy, Bill the Marines, David the Army Air Corps, and Fred the Army. Since WWII had ended there wasn’t much for a Naval Aviator to do, and upon hearing that marriage was the ticket to an honorable discharge, Mrs. Adickes drove Bob’s sweetheart from Huntsville to Pensacola so the couple could to claim that ticket.

About that time the airlines were looking for pilots, some to “fly the line,” some to fulfill government contracts flying military brass. Bill went to United Airlines, and Bob signed up with TWA to transport high level officials.

Along came David, finishing boot camp and ready for assignment when the orders came down from General Hap Arnold to start him out typing discharge papers - brother Bob always did make good use of his time with his passengers, and taking care of his little brother was important to him.

Eventually David left the typewriter and boarded a Douglas C-54 Skymaster as crew photographer. At this impressionable age he began to see the world.

Flights to Paris invited the entrepreneur in him to gather up cigarette cartons for a dollar in the U.S. and sell them to Parisians at a 10-times profit. On the return he found French perfume commanded a high price here in the States. Other hot commodities, such as hosiery, made their way to his duffel bag as he traveled and learned the art of business.

But falling in love with Paris and its art scene, he also learned the business of art.

Well known for his sculptures - Sam Houston in Huntsville, the Presidents along I-10 in Houston, the Beatles, the “We Love Houston” piece, the cello downtown at Lyric Center, and soon a new Sam Houston on horseback in Baytown - its his paintings that led me to visit with him at his home in Houston.

He’s purchased his old high school and although he’s making it a museum for his art, what spurred him to buy it was to preserve a beloved piece of his past.

“That gymnasium is where we learned to Jitterbug,” he grins with sparkly eyes. “And that was a good time. When we put up walls and lights for hanging the paintings, I plugged the cord into the same outlet where the record player had been plugged in, playing our music when we learned to dance.”

“Liberty,” he repeated thoughtfully. “That’s a long drive for you to come to Houston. But, at least you’re on a nickel.”

It took me a second.

“You know? And you’re in the Declaration of Independence. It doesn’t say ‘life, Huntsville, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And Patrick Henry never said, ‘Give me Huntsville or give me death!’”

Indeed, David, Liberty has that over Huntsville, but you won’t often hear me say, “I’m glad you chose not to pursue flying.”

November 1, 2016 The Road to Nome

The Liberty Gazette
November 1, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

We had just arrived at our hangar on this perfect October day, when across the ramp the small camouflage-colored two-seat high-wing tailwheel airplane caught my eye as the pilot rolled up in front of his hangar and shut down. I hadn’t seen that plane there before and walked over to introduce myself.

As we shook hands I peered through the windows and spied camping gear in the rear seat. There was only one place he could have been this weekend - Reklaw, Texas (that’s Walker spelled backward), the huge annual fly-in where, when weather cooperates, about 600 airplanes descend on a 4,000’ grass strip, people camp out, fly-bys happen, and aviation camaraderie rules.

I could have won “name that accent in one note.” It happens to be my favorite accent of all. Cajuns tend to get excited when telling stories and have unique whole body expressions to match their wonderful speech. I could listen all day.

Dave’s a welder by trade. His work ethic and skill make him in high demand. One day while cutting pipe, he asked his helper to secure a jack stand to the pipe so he could remove the one he was getting closer to as he cut. If they worked it right the addition of a third jack stand would allow for removal of the first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fully secured and his gloved hand was pinned between the stand and the pipe. Yanking it free with the other hand, he knew he’d need medical attention quickly. The emergency room doctor and nurses examined his mangled hand and sewed it up.

Off work for a few weeks, this was the perfect time for Dave and his wife to take that vacation he’d wanted to take for so long, to Nome, Alaska, where they could really get away from it all.

They drove from their home in New Iberia, through Canada, into Alaska. Stopping in Fairbanks at a NAPA Auto Parts for oil and filter he asked, “Where’s the road to Nome?”

“The guy behind the counter looked at me like I must be the most stupid person in the whole world,” he tells with genuine Cajun pizazz. “Then he says, ‘You got to go by plane. Or, you can wait till the snow comes and go by dog sled.’” (Shameful pause) “‘There’s no road to Nome.’”

That was the pivotal moment when Dave said, “Well then, I got to learn how to fly.”

Linda: Back in Louisiana, at age 39, he began learning something he’d never considered, and earned his private pilot certificate in just three months. With meticulous, thoughtful research Dave decided on exactly the plane he wanted, saved his money, and 11 years after driving to Alaska flew his military-themed Super Cub to “The Last Frontier” and for 34 days explored its vast beauty. A fellow member of created a web thread for members to follow Dave’s journey. Equipped with a Spot Tracker and two cell phones - one U.S., one Canada - Cajun Dave’s adventures quickly drew more than 10,000 followers across the globe.

“It was the most amazing thing I learned about the aviation community,” he tells in Louisiana-style animation and word emphasis, “that every single day people would call me and say they were following my Spot Tracker and saw I was headed in their direction, and they’d invite me to come eat and stay the night at their house. It was like family everywhere I went!”

An injured hand and no road to Nome led to becoming a member of the family of aviators. I could have listened to Dave all day. Turns out, we did. 

October 25, 2016 No Clowning Around

The Liberty Gazette
October 25, 2016
Ely Air Lines 
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Dad taught me when I was about four how to remember the name of the first Indianapolis 500 mile race winner, Ray Harroun. “His name sounds like a race car engine,” he said as he demonstrated in his throaty voice, “Ha-rroon!

Ray won Indy the same year KLM Royal Dutch Airlines began. Town & Country was a popular New York periodical then. Paging through an old edition of Town & Country I see: an ad for Pears soap, a pleading to give to the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and a blurb on the community calendar for a golf tournament to be held at the Idlewild Country Club.

But this issue, August 12, 1911, is mostly devoted to aviation, with a sharp focus on aviation “meets”. No name claims authorship to the editorial column, “Notes of the Week”, so I am inclined to think they are the pronouncements of editor H. J. Whigham.

Maybe, maybe not, these were Whigham’s searing words urging - no, demanding attention to the upcoming, historically important Chicago Air Meet that would make the U.S. a more serious contender in aviation innovation - the shameful days of aerial circus tricks which the author thought a waste must soon be over.

My musings on 1911: We had just signed our first reciprocal trade agreement with Canada. There’s a revolution going on in Mexico, and uprisings in China against the Manchu dynasty. Europe is posing for war, while John Sibelius conducts the premiere of his Symphony No. 4 in Helsinki - the one he said, “stands as a protest against present-day music. It has absolutely nothing of the circus about it.”

For some reason it seems people were anti-circus.

Chevrolet is incorporated, IBM founded, and the Mona Lisa stolen and recovered within a day. A postage stamp was two cents, and women around the world were still fighting for the right to vote.

Air meets were all the craze, and San Francisco hosted its first one to start the year right, followed by the first U.S. airplane bombing experiments (Italy had already flexed its muscle being the first to use an airplane as an offensive weapon, defeating the Turks and annexing Libya). The first photo taken from an airplane in the U.S. was snapped over San Diego at the start of 1911. The gifted civilian pilot Eugene Ely was first to land an airplane on a ship.

It was the year Ronald Reagan was born, and sadly, Eugene Ely died. John F. Kennedy would be born just six years later.

A little irony noted: That blurb for a golf tournament was on the calendar in this aviation-dedicated issue. The next generation would not play such a tournament at Idlewild Country Club, for 31 years later a new airport would be built on top of it.

With a show of respect to the displaced golf course, the new reliever for LaGuardia was christened Idlewild Airport, a name that lasted 21 years, until a significant event happened in America in 1963, resulting in Idlewild Airport being renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Indy 500, KLM, Pears soap, Town & Country and JFK Airport are all going strong, the poor are still with us, and I don’t golf, but I do remember who won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. 

October 18, 2016 Volcanic inspiration

The Liberty Gazette
October 18, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: What do two pilots do when visiting a new place? Find the airports, of course, and meet other pilots which leads to great conversation because the small world of aviation gives us a special connection no matter where in the world we are.

Iceland’s main airline airport is in Keflavik and considered one of the most important emergency alternate landing airports for planes crossing the North Atlantic. When the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 aircraft all over Europe were grounded, but depending on the winds planes could still land at Keflavik or another major airport in the northern part of Iceland, Acureyri.

Icelandair has named all 28 aircraft in it’s fleet after Icelandic volcanoes. We were aboard Askja, named after a volcano in the highlands, just a bit northeast of the center of the country. Askja last erupted on Mike’s birthday in 1961. The area it’s in was used by astronauts during training for the Apollo program to study geology in preparation for the lunar missions.

We noticed a few other interesting facts and made some comparisons. About the size of Kentucky in land mass, Iceland’s population is only about 325,000, yet there are 33 public airports, making the people-to-airport ratio about 9850:1. About 27 million people live in Texas and our state has nearly 400 airports - a 67,500:1 ratio. Interesting stat, because Texas has a lot of airports compared to other U.S. states.

Mike: Mountainous Iceland is in an active volcanic zone, the highest point there is 6,920’ above sea level. Even though Guadalupe Peak in west Texas towers at 8,751’ much of the land mass here is pretty flat. Icelandic mountains stretch out into the seas like long fingers - the fjords are glaciated valleys of water between elongated mountainous land masses, and driving Ring Road around the country includes winding around these fjords. In some places wind was blocked by mountains, and in other places our little rental car rocked through strong wind streams.

This sub-polar climate makes coastal temperatures less reactive to seasonal changes than you might think, being that it’s called Iceland, but the wind can be strong in some areas. The Tundra climate zone is where to find interior highlands and icecaps.

Three huge glaciers feed the country’s 31 named and countless unnamed waterfalls. Rounding the curves along Ring Road offers plenty of surprises, another waterfall, more spectacular than the one we just passed.

At Thingvellir National Park we stood in a rift valley with one foot on the North American and one foot on the Eurasian tectonic plates, less than a league from the Althingi, Iceland’s - and the world’s - first parliament, established in 930 A.D. Sessions were held here until 1798.

The geology of the area is fascinating where up-thrust volcanic rocks are in constant flux as the tectonic plates collide, and cascading waterfalls feed rivers.

Walking the trails and crossing several foot bridges, we looked down into crystal clear water at 20-pound brown trout as they got stuck and then unstuck from the shallow bottom trying to swim upstream. The rivers flow into Thingvallavatn, the country’s largest natural lake, where people come from all over the world to go diving in the abyss known as Silfra, a large fissure between the two tectonic plates. The water is known for its purity and extreme clearness. One dive company advertisement likens it to “liquid meditation Iceland-Style.”

October 11, 2016 Magnetic dance

The Liberty Gazette
October 11, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Jet lag: the wiped-out feeling you get after making a long flight across many time zones. Sometimes it takes a couple days for a body clock to reset. Last week we left you in the town of Vik, Iceland.

We were told the best place to see the Aurora Borealis was on the hill behind the church which held the highest ground over the town. So, tired and cold, we climbed the steep roads to the church and beyond.

We waited, hoping to see the Northern Lights but they didn’t come, so marching back down the hill we finally laid our weary heads down. We were disappointed to learn in the morning that the aurora came about 3:00 AM. The show was so great the capitol city of Reykjavik turned off all the street lights so everyone there would see them much better. We were hopeful for a repeat sometime during our stay.

Linda: On to Vallanes in eastern Iceland - a difficult drive to make because there's a surprise around every corner: glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, beautiful mountains and ocean views, Icelandic horses, and sheep farms… oh the sheep, those adorable sheep. Everywhere our eyes gazed was postcard picture worthy, thus, the estimated drive time was out of whack with reality, because who can pass this up and not stop to take pictures?

None of the roads are super highways. The all-weather Ring Road is mostly just one lane in each direction, some of it is just gravel, and we traveled over a whole lot of single lane bridges constructed of wood or pierced steel planking, which makes unique sounds when driving on it.

Our Ring Road route followed the southeastern fjords and though there is a shortcut through the mountains, we weren’t sure our rental car could handle it so the drive to Vallanes took quite a bit longer than we expected, arriving late at the organic farm and home of our hosts Hamie and his wife Eyglo. Fortunately though, this time we caught a stunning light show of Aurora Borealis shortly after checking in to our guest house.

We watched ions stuck in magnetic love move quickly like fluid ribbons, widening, lengthening, across the sky. Sometimes they kiss and heat up enough to let off sparks. We had seen pictures but never in our wildest dreams did we expect such a moving spectacle.

In the morning Hamie and Eyglo served us breakfast of traditional Icelandic porridge with barley (their primary crop) from their farm, raisins, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon and honey, along with traditional pancakes with nuts and raisins - and great coffee.

At approximately 1100 acres, theirs is the largest organic farm in all of Iceland. They irrigate and have greenhouses, but they do not have access to the underground hot springs that many other farms and homes have for heat.

Mike: After breakfast we spent the day hiking along the trails around the farm, conversed with curious Icelandic horses who wanted to eat Linda’s new wool sweater, and trekked through the woods and down to the lake and back, stopping in at the church next to the farm to offer a prayer of thanks.

Linda: We will continue our Icelandic Saga next week.

October 4, 2016 In search of Vikings... or airplanes

The Liberty Gazette
October 4, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The only time I saw the Aurora Borealis I was flying westbound at 39,000’ carrying a lot more weight and a lot less fuel than planned into an unanticipated 190-knot headwind. We’d rerouted about a hundred miles north of Chicago to get out of the brunt of the jet stream and there the northern lights were on display. Nose buried in aeronautical charts, busy locating an intermediate fuel stop, my attention was diverted from the beauty of dancing light streams. Now, under cold, mostly clear skies, we watch for electrons and protons to ionize, shedding their energy resulting in movement of light, like smoke, or ghost-like wisps streaking and swirling overhead is an absolutely amazing experience.

Linda: Greetings from Iceland!

Parking the Elyminator in Front Range, Colorado, we hopped on a 757 to Keflavik for an adventure celebrating our 10th anniversary. A few good books, magazines with great tourist tips, and a little conversation with a PhD candidate headed for the start of class in the UK filled the nearly seven hour trip.

Icelandair offers direct flights to Reykjavik from Denver, and as we happened to be in Pagosa Springs for an air race, Denver was the perfect departure airport.

We’re impressed with Icelandair. What a brilliant business idea to increase tourism via their Stopover Buddy program. For up to seven days passengers can stay in Iceland from anywhere the company flies, and be paired with an Icelandair employee who serves as a guide. Airfare is the same price as just changing planes. The airline has not only encouraged tourism, they’ve worked at making it possible - and inviting. Hotels sprinkled throughout the country owned by the airline ensure there are places to stay. Last year more than 800 people signed up for the program.

Even in the details, Icelandair replaced the usual lighting above luggage bins with subtle multicolored “northern lights” that move up and down the length of the cabin.

From Keflavik, through Reykjavik, we drove south and east to see the remains of a DC-3. Just inland on the shore of Iceland's black sand Sólheimasandur Beach, the hulk of the US Navy plane made a forced landing (not a crash) there in November, 1973. Everyone survived.

The Navy didn’t salvage the plane, leaving it to rot in the rough elements. The propellers and engines are gone, as are the whole nose, tail and wings. But most of the cabin and the engine nacelles are there and without U.S. lawyer mentality to keep the curious from exploring and climbing, people flock to the site and walk the two and a half mile trek each way. There were even pre-wedding pictures being taken while we were there. And you better believe we climbed in it and on it, and took lots of pictures.

Mike: Our first night here was in the small town of Vik (pronounced “Week”) where everything is within walking distance - restaurants and a grocery store, and the black sand beach, with a church at the top of the hill.

Wool sweaters on as we leave the internet and kaffi cafe and bring you more next week because we can’t fit it all in one installment.

September 27, 2016 Service from the shack

The Liberty Gazette
September 27, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

The pilot and his passenger have been enjoying the view cruising a couple thousand feet above the countryside. They plan to stop at a small airport just outside a medium sized town. The passenger spots it first, and slapping the pilot on the shoulder he points out the faint outline of a cracked paved runway and a neatly cropped grass runway crossing it. As they fly over the top of the airport the pilot peers down at the windsock which is pointing out the best runway for landing into the wind - it’s favoring the grass runway. The dynamic duo rein their trusty steed down into the traffic pattern and touch down onto the manicured grass. As they approach the airport buildings, one small building stands out, looks more like a large toll booth, and out onto the ramp comes a kid in greasy overalls and a ball cap. He waves and then thrusts his arms straight out in front of him, bidding the airplane’s crew to line up and taxi nose first into the parking spot in front of the fuel pumps.

Back in the day, cowboys patrolling a ranch boundary in search of stray cattle would have a cabin for shelter from the elements, called the “line shack”. The airport version meets a similar need. As it used to be at gas stations with their line of attendants waiting for the next customer so they could air up their tires, fill their tanks with a couple dollars worth of gas and make sure their windows left clean and streak-free, aviation’s counterpart is the lineman. Many an airline or corporate pilot career began working the line, placing chocks under wheels, fueling, cleaning windows, fetching ice and coffee for a departing flight.

Today’s airport line shack is more likely a room in a bigger building, a passenger terminal with a great view of the airport ramp, the “shack” relegated to aviation history status. But unlike the gas stations we use today, where profits are made from self-serve pumps, and sales of chips and soda, at many airports the art of line service has grown. Yes, there are airports that only offer self-serve fuel at a competitive price to attract customers, but counter this with a full service “Fixed Base Operator” (FBO) such as Galaxy Aviation at Conroe’s Lone Star Executive Airport with its rooftop Black Walnut Cafe and a herd of linemen (and women) watching for arriving aircraft and scurrying out to the ramp to marshal them up underneath an awning and place a red carpet at the airplane’s exit. Here service is their bread and butter and you’ll see images of service stations you knew from the past living on.

Big FBOs at big airports are big business, often employing hundreds in specialized areas of service. Hobby airport sports five different FBOs competing for business. In addition to fuel they offer first class passenger amenities, comfortable lounges, catering, maintenance and concierge services. Line personnel run about loading bags, driving passenger’s cars up plane-side or offering a golf cart ride to the modern well-appointed passenger lounge, or placing newspapers, coffee and ice in the aircraft at the pilot’s request. Some offer mini-gyms and snooze rooms for pilots.

Self-service fuel is a good thing but sometimes we seek places that offer other services too. However, I do miss looking for a little line shack. In all my flying years I have not seen much middle ground in the world of aviation. There is no aviation equivalent to Buc-cee’s.

September 20, 2016 The versatile helicopter - for rice and ball fields

The Liberty Gazette
September 20, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

After a fascinating presentation about how helicopters work, offered by expert specialty mechanic, pilot, and military veteran Richard Payne, we had an opportunity to visit with Erik Kessler of Veracity Aviation, a helicopter flight training school with locations in Seguin and Georgetown, Texas. With nearly all of our combined experience being in fixed wing aircraft, there’s plenty we don’t know about the world of rotor wing, as helos are often called. We have a couple of Erik’s stories to share which we think you’ll enjoy.

Erik: Ball fields. On the outskirts of Austin, Elgin High School was hosting the local softball and baseball championships and we had just gone through a very heavy rainfall the night before they were scheduled to begin. The head of the athletic department contacted me and asked if I could use the helicopter downwash to "blow" off the standing water because it was too soft for anyone to walk on and they didn't have anything powerful enough to move the water.

He paid for one hour, but unfortunately 40 minutes of that time was flying there and back. In the 20 minutes I could dedicate to the work at hand I was able to move the majority of the infield standing water on the baseball field. When I returned to the office, the athletic director was so pleased he asked me to come back for two more hours to finish the baseball field and dry out the softball field as well.

At the end of the day, he spent $1,000 but if it weren't for the creative use of the helicopter the games would probably have been moved to another high school or cancelled. We not only saved the games but Elgin's reputation to host the championships as planned.

Rice. Rice farmers in south Texas use helicopters in the month of July to cross pollinate the rice fields. For comparison, in third world countries hundreds of workers line-up next to the male plants and fan them in order to blow the pollen from the male to the female rows. In America, we use the rotor downwash of a helicopter to do the same thing but much more effectively and efficiently. One helicopter can pollinate a 300-acre rice field in approximately three hours.

We have eight helicopters available in our area to do this work, and approximately 50 in different locations all over south Texas. Basically, we fly about a foot over the rice plant at 22 knots, and depending on where the wind is coming from, we direct our rotor downwash at the male rice plants - the same concept as being fanned by a line of workers but 1000 times more effective. One single 100-acre field produced enough hybrid rice to cover the entire helicopter operation expense for the month. Our location has pollinated at least 2,000 acres a day.

Linda: If you’re interested in helicopter flight training, or just taking a scenic flight for fun, or, if you have rice fields that need marrying or ball fields that need a good blow-dry in style talk with Erik at Veracity, (830) 379-9800, or see their website at

September 13, 2016 Wingtip Pirouette

The Liberty Gazette
September 13, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Somewhere down there, on a street corner along Route 66 is the statue of Glenn Frey and behind it, a mural of a woman in a flatbed Ford, who we all know is slowing down to take a look at him. 

Our focus is beyond Winslow, Arizona and the Eagles, but were it not for Glenn and the group the town’s name wouldn’t be permanently affixed to a particular tune. The song plays in our heads even without our conscious permission because it has to, even when you just think “Winslow, Arizona.” 

Those notes bouncing in the back of our memories, we watch and listen for air traffic arriving and departing the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport just beyond our right wing, as we search for a large divot in the ground, a crater formed many years ago when a meteor shot through the earth’s thick gaseous layers and slammed into Northern Arizona. Just past the crater’s north rim we spot the white water storage tank, our first turn point in the Thunderbird 150 Air Race. The intersection of two dirt roads just beyond the tank indicates turn two and matches up perfectly to the latitude and longitude we’ve programmed into our airplane’s GPS.

These first two turns were chosen to give air racers a unique view of the famous crater. Pirouetting, we sweep around the rim flying the short distance from turn one to turn two and then point our nose south toward turn three, another jewel, an airpark at the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Or, if you ever read a Zane Grey western novel, you’ll know it as the Tonto Rim. The two-hundred-plus mile-long upheaval of land mass separates the high country north and east of Phoenix from the higher Colorado Plateau. During monsoon season it is one of the most lightning-struck pieces of ground on the earth. Today, not a cloud in the sky and we can see for what seems like forever.

We had been needing a change in scenery and welcomed this trip to Arizona, chasing old and new friends around the Western Sky and Arizona’s high, high desert. Overflying the Navajo Indian Reservation and Petrified Forest National Monument we reached Holbrook in just eight hours of flight time the day before the air race, in time for a potluck dinner at Mogollon Airpark, at the residence of our overnight hosts, Curt and Ellen. When they heard there was to be an air race with out-of-town pilots they graciously offered a room in their beautifully designed hangar home for our stay.

During the evening in the hangar full of pilots and food we discovered that our hostess, Ellen, attended the same high school as I did, and was even in my class, although she moved our senior year and graduated elsewhere. We reminisced about people and places we both knew well, amazed that we’d never met before this flying event brought us all together. 

Crossing the race finish line was not the end of our respite from the working world. We took the opportunity to spend time with friends in Phoenix and Tucson before winging our way back here. But with new friends in high rim places, we’ll look forward to a return trip to Zane Grey country in the not too distance future.

September 6, 2016 Now on Sale

The Liberty Gazette
September 6, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: A tweet (as in Twitter, social media) shared by a co-worker showed a picture of a promotional sign advertising a certain service by a relatively new company. What was unusual about it was that particular sign in that particular store.

Costco Wholesale, “a membership warehouse club, dedicated to bringing our members the best possible prices on quality, brand-name merchandise”, has the large membership it does in part because of good prices. So we often think bargain when we think of Costco and other wholesale clubs. 

But then there’s the other piece - quality brand names. And these days, it’s not only merchandise. As we recently saw from that tweet, Costco is advertising services, too. 

For those who travel by air frequently there are some reasonable options to airlines. Of course, learning to fly would be tops on my list, but a company or individual could also buy an airplane (or helicopter) and hire a pilot, charter a flight, or, that person or business could join a club. We call it a fractional share and there are several such companies built around variations of this concept. 

One of these, Wheels Up, explains their uniqueness: “Unlike with traditional fractional or jet card programs, joining the Wheels Up club does not require a significant up-front financial or long-term commitment. You aren’t purchasing an asset, you are joining a club. For a reasonable initiation fee and low annual dues, you become part of an exclusive private aviation network, providing aircraft at reduced rates with guaranteed availability. A Wheels Up membership means guaranteed occupied hourly pricing on a pay-as-you-fly basis, paying only for hours flown, no hidden charges or unnecessary management or service fees.” 

Sound nice, and even though the initiation fee may be reasonable and the annual dues low, the invitation to be in an exclusive private anything is alluring to most folks.

The lower priced option at Wheels Up is the Individual or Family membership. Corporate members will, of course, pay much more. But a person can join for just $17,500 (that’s the reasonable initiation fee), and then only $8,500 per year dues. That entitles the member to guaranteed flights with 24-hour notice, which, of course, will be paid for per flight. Sounds good, and there are lots of folks for whom this works out well. I wonder though, how many of them shop at Costco?

If you’d asked me that last week I might have had a different answer. But now knowing that Wheels Up advertises at Costco I am going to assume they’ve done their market research and that there are enough Costco members who could also be Wheels Up members. 

So far, 2100 members have joined, giving them access to a fleet of 55 airplanes already at the company’s disposal, with an Uber-like app that facilitates passenger-flight matches.

So business aviation is now on sale at Costco. Kudos to Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter for growing the business aviation market in innovative ways. Now even $17k private airplane subscriptions are sold in bulk on pallets at Costco. Impressive.

August 30, 2016 Welcome Home

The Liberty Gazette
August 30, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Those miles of runway I’ve thanked for a special trip with Mom to her hometown (August 16, 2016 Gazette) are the strips of pavement that made possible a journey of many stories. Launching from Baytown, flying above countryside and towns to the cornfields of the Midwest, I found treasure buried deep in stories that sparkled to life as we stood in the very places of Mom’s memories.

One of the most significant pieces from the built world of that time was the house where she grew up, at 12th and Charleston, Mattoon, Illinois, nearly a century old when Mom’s family acquired it. One of her vivid memories is of a portrait of the builder and original owner, Mr. Hasbrouck.

His likeness which hung at the top of the stairs was of such large dimensions that his descendants had no room for it in their homes. My grandmother assured them it would be no problem for Mr. Hasbrouck to remain with the house he built circa 1836. Mom didn’t know his first name, but telling us how she’d say “Hello, Mr. Hasbrouck” as she passed by his portrait brought a gleeful smile and a twinkle in her eye that was enough for me to imagine a cute little imp dashing through her very active life full of spunk and charm.

Yearning to know more about the house that sheltered my mom – the doors through which she passed to get to the next adventure, the walls that absorbed or echoed her chatter, the floors on which she skipped or tip-toed, to dinner, to bed, and up for breakfast, and the roof that helped her feel secure – made me sad it was gone, having been razed around 1954 for a bank which now occupies the property where she played, its presence I resent. It would have meant so much to be in the spaces where she played hide-and-seek, and shared secrets with her sisters, and practiced her singing for church the next Sunday.

Searching the internet for photos of the house led me to discover that Mr. and Mrs. Abram Hasbrouck had eight children, among them, Helen. Helen became Mrs. Isaac Craig, had four daughters, and in her late years moved back to the old house then owned by her eldest daughter, Louise Craig Neal, who took care of her until Helen Hasbrouck Craig passed away. Mr. and Mrs. Neal had four daughters, including Elizabeth, who became Mrs. John Cartmill and raised her two sons, John Craig Cartmill and Robert Hasbrouck Cartmill, in Tulsa. John Cartmill passed four years ago at the age of 91. Reading his obituary, my heart nearly melted at the serendipity:

Flying was his first love. He was one of the first to graduate from the Army Air Corps Combat Flying School in Lubbock TX in 1942 and served in World War II as a Glider Pilot. Continuing his love for aviation as a member of the Tulsa Skyhawks for many years, he had a particular love for soaring and spent many delightful hours under the cumulus clouds of Oklahoma.

His brother, Robert, passed just one year prior:

…a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy Annapolis MD and earned a PhD. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and was a veteran of the Korean War. His broad work experience included engineering, hydrology, meteorology, teaching, and farming. After retiring from NASA’s Earth Resources Laboratory he wrote a book, The Next Hundred Years Then and Now, comparing predictions made at the beginning of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

On the cover of Robert’s book is a tiny photo of the house his great-grandfather built at 1121 Charleston Avenue, Mattoon, Illinois.

That mile of runway: Priceless. 

August 23, 2016 Heavenly Frozen Vents, Batman!

The Liberty Gazette
August 23, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

: At 13,000 feet I don’t really need oxygen but I have my mask clamped on anyway. The engine hums effortlessly and I scan the dimly lit gauges in the early morning darkness as black gives way to grey. My sister slumbers, cocooned in a sleeping bag and occupying the entire rear seat of the Cessna. Wayne, our friend, keeps me company recapping a recent motocross race he did inside of a volcano in Hawaii.

This is our second leg since the wheels broke ground at 5:00 a.m. We waited an hour in Sacramento, planning to be in the right place when the first readings come in from the weather observer at the South Lake Tahoe control tower as it opens for the day.

Approaching the Squaw Valley radio beacon the Oakland Center controller informs us the field’s weather is above the minimums needed to perform the instrument approach, but not by much. We are cleared for the approach which takes us over the radio beacon on a continuous descent southeast across the lake. Slowing the airplane, I’m anticipating a lot of turbulence as we descend into the bowl, but it never comes.

The clouds open to a magnificent view. Resting before us is a majestic mountain, its slopes covered in glittering white, reflecting the early morning rays. This is heaven, more accurately Heavenly. Heavenly Valley Ski Resort is where we plan to spend our day. Down a side-valley to the right sits the airport, five miles distant. A controller clears us to land.

Shortly after the wheels kiss the pavement, we are ushered into a parking spot. Climbing from the plane and unpacking our gear, the snow starts to fall. Just a little at first, then a lot. Visibility in the narrow valley drops to a quarter mile - too low for even a commuter airline to land. Weather softly envelopes the mountains and the canyons around the airport. We are the first plane to land this morning and the last, for a while.

While many of the would-be skiers are stranded in San Francisco waiting for weather conditions to improve, we explore near deserted bowls, dance off moguls, and schuss and even tumble down long ski runs, with no lift lines to speak of. Wearing ourselves out we enjoy a leisure dinner and return to the airport. Weather has improved enough for us to depart. But for the first time today, we have to wait as several airliners from San Francisco to land, several hours too late to enjoy a sensational day on the slopes.

Departing, we are soon surrounded by darkness as we climb out and cross the backbone of the Sierras. Wayne and I enjoy the warm glow from the instruments as the airplane’s heater does a great job warming our tired feet. My sister has resumed her spot in the sleeping bag on the rear seat. Her doze is interrupted by flakes of snow coming through the fresh air vent, splattering her face and dusting her hair. The vent is frozen open so she stuffs a tissue in the opening and nods off.

It’s mid-night when we touch down at our home airport. It’s been one heavenly day.

August 16, 2016 Landing on Memory Lane

The Liberty Gazette
August 16, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

“A mile of highway can take you a mile; but a mile of runway can take you anywhere.” That’s a phrase we often use because its message hits the bulls-eye. I recently had the great blessing to experience that not only can it take us anywhere, propelling us away from the earth, unveiling a vantage point that would have made the Egyptians halt their pyramid building, but a runway can also take us back.

On my latest return to my hometown of Indy I gathered up Mom and Sis and we headed for a special place: Mom’s hometown, Mattoon, Illinois. We could not have fit this trip into a weekend were it not for the runways dotting the landscape. Were it not for the ease of travel permitted by these strips of land that let us go anywhere, Mom, Barbara, and I would not have stood in front of the house at 915 Wabash Avenue (still a brick road) where Mom was born, to hear her stories of playing with her bulldog in the backyard, and her little legs hopping up and down the front porch steps.

Thanks to the runways here and there and many places in between, the three of us took this priceless trip down memory lane together. Mom’s recollection of moving day “to the big house”, at age three, the youngest of four children born within six years, made each moment come alive as we walked down the same roads, taking in the same neighborhood. She wasn’t allowed to ride with the big kids in the truck that moved their furniture a couple of blocks up and over to 1121 Charleston Avenue so she walked with the dog and the housekeeper, who she said were probably her best friends anyway. Her words created the picture I could envision of a toddler fascinated with walking atop rolled up room sized rugs and the adventure she would find getting lost in a century old mansion that was new to them.

The Mattoon and Coles County Historical Society, housed on the third floor of the Illinois Central train depot on Broadway Avenue, where Amtrak frequents today, helped open doors to more reminiscing. The beautiful old building (built 1917) presented itself to us proudly with its restored antique staircase of 10’ wide terrazzo stairs and ornamental metal and wood handrail, wood and metal ticket window, and the original benches of highly polished birch wood with 12’ backs. This, Mom said, was where she walked to greet her daddy every Friday evening when he rode the train home after a long week of work away, and where she would walk back to see him off again every Sunday evening. He was a chemist and inventor of all things railroad.

We found in the Historical Society a hidden gem of a surprise when one of the volunteers handed us a local high school yearbook of Mom’s senior year. As we turned pages to see photos of Mom in more clubs and activities than I could imagine having time for, we learned this book had belonged to one of her friends, Louise Owings, whose family owned the drug store. There, in Mom’s handwriting, was her farewell-best-wishes-happy-graduation message to Louise, and her signature with arrow to one of her many photos. The volunteer was spot-on when she remarked, “That right there made the trip worth it.”

A mile of runway can take us anywhere - even back in time where I can walk through my mom’s childhood now planted firmly in my soul.

August 9, 2016 Leadership

The Liberty Gazette
August 9, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Every muscle tenses as he pulls the control stick toward himself - into his lap. Blood rushes from his head from the G-forces. The smooth beat of the 13-foot diameter propeller in front of him throbs as the round engine pumps its monster 28 cylinders against it. As the nose of his airplane reaches a 45-degree up angle the pilot rolls to the left and stomps hard on the rudder as he eases the stick forward. The world turns around and a long stretch of sand slides into view. White foam sloshes about on a blue-green background as waves crash on shore. Ant-like figures are running about. Near the dense vegetation along the beach below he sees wreckage of an airplane smoldering. The pilot’s engine changes its tune winding up into the dive. Lining up for another pass there is a deafening roar as his wing cannons belch fire, ripping trails of splattering sand as the enemy soldiers scatter,  retreating into the woods. As he levels out over the beach at nearly 400 mph, he scans seaward, catching a glimpse of the downed enemy pilot surfacing for air.

“How long would you have stayed there,” my dad asked. Jack replied “Till I had fuel enough to get offshore about a mile. Then I’d ditch. That was the difference. They’d give up ten men to get one piece of equipment. We’d give up ten pieces of equipment to save one man.”

Herman John “Jack” Trum, III couldn’t make up his mind. He wanted to fly and sail the seven seas. Where do you go if you want to do both? Join the Navy. Focused, Jack won a cadet slot at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, graduating Class of 1940. A large percentage of his classmates did not make it through WWII.

After graduation Jack served first as a midshipman on a battleship in the North Atlantic, its secret mission to find and sink the Tirpitz, sister battleship to the Bismarck. Unknown to them at the time of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship had already been sunk.

Jack ended WWII as a Naval Aviator, then flew 104 missions during the Korean War flying reconnaissance and cover for downed pilots. He talked of flying so low at times that upon returning to the ship the planes’ bellies had to be washed to remove mud.

As his career progressed he served as a fighter squadron commander, fleet oiler captain and then Captain of the aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany from 1963 to 1964. He made Rear Admiral in 1967, serving on two carrier divisions and later the commander of NAS Whidbey Island in Washington where he retired in 1972.

Jack was my dad’s first cousin, but Dad looked up to Jack as a boy idolizes his older brother. As adults, no matter where they lived, still close as brothers, each year they’d meet somewhere and catch up. During one of these meetings right after the Navy’s Tailhook scandal ended the careers of the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy, Dad asked if Jack thought the punishment was too severe.

Jack replied, “It wasn’t severe enough. They either knew or should have known what’s happening during their watch. Neglecting their responsibilities is not the quality of a leader. There is no gray area.”

We lost them both years ago but their influences remain. I’ll be thinking about cousin Jack’s response when I cast my vote in November.

August 2, 2016 Point Five

The Liberty Gazette
August 2, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: In last week’s piece I mulled over aviation-and-the-arts as topic of the week, finally pondering the potential superpowers of nail polish design to match our airplane’s paint scheme. The good news for Team Ely is that it worked. Not that the tailwinds weren’t involved in helping us get to the finish line fast, but at least stylish nails were a part of the story - fingers in red and toes in black-and-white checkered flag attracted a few good-humored photographers.

The long trip to Mitchell, South Dakota was broken up with a stop in Austin to pick up my friend Kathleen, an airline pilot who had never raced before and was going to take Mike’s place in the race since he had to work. There was a huge benefit in this substitution because Kathleen probably weighs in at half Mike’s weight - a relevant factor if you want to fly fast - so I started calling her “Point Five”.

Point Five, the Elyminator, and I pushed through headwinds all the way, stopping in Hinton, Oklahoma and Norfolk, Nebraska for fuel. The day was hot - even way up high in the sky, but hotter on the ground. The upside though is stopping at small communities where the airports are well maintained, restrooms are clean, and a friendly person opens the door to an air conditioned pilot’s lounge and offers ice cold water - with a smile.

Lady Wellman is not self-dubbed royalty but received her name because her parents just liked the sound of it. She makes visitors feel welcome in Oklahoma and you can see “a woman’s touch” in the airport’s terminal building - comfortable seating areas, tasteful decor, and tables full of snacks, coffees and teas, and ice cold water.

One of the pictures hanging on the wall at the Hinton Municipal Airport was a photo of a bear, and the words, “Bear with Me”. Turns out, the poster is the cover of a book she wrote, published by Tate Publishing. Here’s a teaser from their website: “A long awaited date should be special, except in Bear with Me, Hannah and Michael find themselves scrambling through the woods in a fight for their lives. After stumbling upon illegal activities, these two opposites are forced to discover one another's attributes in order to survive. This lighthearted Christian suspense will have you on edge one minute and laughing good-naturedly the next.”

Lady and I chatted a bit about our respective books and after some time cooling down Point Five and I hopped back in the Elyminator to fly to the next fuel stop further north, but still 100 degrees. There, too, were friendly people who offered us a courtesy car to drive in to town to get something to eat.

This is one of our favorite things about hopping around the country stopping in small towns with low fuel prices. It’s the people. The great people.

As we flew over the town of Mitchell I pointed out the only Corn Palace in existence, something my substitute race partner had never seen nor heard of before. With plenty of daylight left Point Five and I landed at our destination, joining so many friends who enjoy the same addiction we do - competing for the fastest time across the sky. Even Mike Patey, who flew “Turbulence”, his highly modified 850-horsepower kit-built Turbine Legend 438.02 mph - without nail polish.

July 26, 2016 Beyond Flying: Influencing Art

The Liberty Gazette
July 19, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Usually this space is filled with purely aviation stories, but every once in awhile we reach beyond for an interesting connection to aviation. The arts is one area rich with aviation references, in song, poetry, and story, in movies, stage, radio, and television, in games, and in dance. Often the characters featured are the most well-known, such as Charles Lindbergh and Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

The opera, Amelia, is one of many projects inspired by the famed aviatrix. The official synopsis from the website of Daron Hagen, the opera’s writer, says, “A first time mother-to-be, whose psyche has been scarred by the loss of her pilot-father in Vietnam, must break free from anxiety to embrace healing and renewal for the sake of her husband and child in this original story unfolding over a 30-year period beginning in 1966. Amelia interweaves one woman's emotional journey, the American experience in Vietnam, and elements of the Daedalus and Icarus myth to explore man's fascination with flight and the dilemmas that arise when vehicles of flight are used for exploration, adventure, and war. With an intensely personal libretto by American poet Gardner McFall, whose father was a Navy pilot lost during Vietnam, this new American opera moves from loss to recuperation, paralysis to flight, as the protagonist, Amelia, ultimately embraces her life and the creative force of love and family.”

It’s a fabulous, precious opera, even for non-opera fans. We saw it nearly five years ago and were honored to meet Mr. Hagen and Ms. McFall in a pre-performance meet and greet, which made the show that much more enjoyable. I’d recommend seeing it - it’s empowering and touching.

Then just a few days ago I received a promotional email from another pair - an acrobatic ballerina and her publicist.

Cryzta Bobbe, stage name Crystalle, is an aerial dancer - a gifted gymnast and ballerina who literally ran off to join the circus at her German parents’ dismay.  They equated circus life with beggars, but somehow, something about an early female pilot has touched Crystalle so deeply that she was moved to create a very acrobatic dance performance as a tribute to her. She performs Adagio for Amelia donning vintage helmet and goggles, as well as a flowing dance called Winged. And yes, she dances on a high wire, too.

Now I have these burning questions: what is it about aviation that draws an elegant, gifted dancer to create such an inspiring, beautiful performance? What is it about flying that she loves?

At the same time I am reminded of the story of Rosie the Riveter. The daughter of the real Rosie lives in Conroe and is a pilot and good friend of mine. The likeness of a later Rosie shows up in newer posters, but that lady was actually a pianist and wanted nothing to do with continued riveting in the factory, because of the risk to her fingers, and her career. My friend’s mother, whose name really was Rose, and who really did make B-24s in the Willow Run bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, wasn't too concerned with piano, but had a riveting career nonetheless.

One last musing about aviation and the arts. Gearing up for the next race I decided to get gussied up a little more than usual. I had my fingernails painted to match the dominant red on the Elyminator, and my toenails in black and white checkered flag motif to match the design on our tail and wingtips. Maybe it’ll help us win.

July 19, 2016 Sweet Rewards

The Liberty Gazette
July 19, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Dave Phillips was an engineer at the University of California and like all engineers, he put his pencil to work, calculated all the angles and when he found the best one he began building his plan.

Seventeen years ago the Healthy Choice food company decided on a new strategy to promote their products. They would offer non-cash rewards in exchange for proof of purchase of anything made by Healthy Choice that would come in the form of frequent flyer miles on any one of four airlines of the customer’s choice. Each bar code would be worth 100 miles. Prices varied on their products, but the reward was the same.

Today the company offers 89 different products within the frozen foods, soups, yogurts, and frozen treats categories. They sold many of those products back in 1999, too, when Dave began buying cans of soup and frozen meals, quickly figuring that the lower priced products would net him the best deal.

Then he happened into a grocery outlet store and stumbled upon a Healthy Choice product he hadn’t seen before: pudding - trial-sized chocolate pudding cups. They were priced at 25 cents, and yes, he did exactly what you think he did. He bought the entire display full of tiny chocolate pudding cups.

Approaching the cashier, he realized he’d better think of a response to the question he would surely be asked - why are you buying all these?

Being 1999, the most fitting response was simply, “Y2K.” With the rumors of catastrophe that the year 2000 would have on everyone because computers were not programmed to understand a change in Century, and the hysteria those rumors caused, no one would expect further explanation. Y2K, it turned out, was the perfect alibi as Dave tried to beat the promotion’s deadline, spending his quarters at every grocery outlet within 200 miles, and morphing into The Pudding Guy.

Investing about 100 hours of his time and a little over $3,000, Dave’s garage eventually housed 12,150 25-cent pudding cups, worth 1.2 million air miles - determination, for the win!

Now you might think that 100 hours of work and $3,000 is a pretty sweet deal for several family trips around the world over a ten year period, but wait - there’s more. Remember there was a deadline for this promotion? That deadline meant he had to remove all those labels with bar codes off of every single pudding cup and send them in. Besides, who was going to eat all this pudding?

After several calls to area food banks, someone at the local Salvation Army agreed to accept the donation and offered volunteer labor to remove all those labels. And the little gold nugget here - Dave even claimed the $3,000 donation on his taxes that year. His proof? It was in the pudding.

If you’re inclined to be mad at Dave for his tax write-off, first of all, it was a long time ago, so get over it; but second, you gotta hand it to the guy. He’s the only person who had the tenacity to follow through and claim his prizes to travel the world for free for a decade.

July 12, 2016 Status: Hero

The Liberty Gazette
July 12, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: The metal airframe’s vibrations resonate as its twin propellers club the air. From behind the multi-paned windshield the pilots peer through clouds and dense smoke of burned fields, searching for a small village hung on a mountainside. Fighting to keep the heavily laden old transport plane flying, they remain clear of spire-like rock formations jutting up from thick foliage below. In the back, a man moves pallets of stacked bags and a crate with a pig inside closer to the open door. The crew struggles with the shifting cargo as the plane becomes tail-heavy.

Rounding a ridge they see their target. The pilot gives the signal to drop the load. With all his strength, the man in back begins shoving pallets out the back door, sometimes following them through it only to be slammed against the airplane as he dangles from his safety line. Clawing and crawling back inside, he finally dumps the pig. Some of the pallets have parachutes, others do not. Hopefully the pig has a nice leisurely ride.

As the pig flies so does the big silver bird. Rolling steeply away from the mountain it leaps skyward due to pounds shed, disappearing into the gloomy brown-grey pall, mission accomplished and heading for home.

At the end of WWII, from the remains of General Claire Chennault’s famed Flying Tigers, which defended China before we entered the war, emerged Air America.

Air America became the world’s largest private airline, but was eventually owned by the CIA, making it a public asset. The dedication of its crew members - who served without protections - guaranteed that U.S. service men and women were able to accomplish missions the military could not without political upheaval.

For our government, its plausible deniability. Yet, these crew members served alongside our armed forces, and many died in their service. Flying large transports and helicopters they provided lifelines of food and supplies to natives and allies, similar to what was done during the Berlin Airlift, except that there the rules of engagement were respected. Not so during the secret war in Laos as Air America rescued downed U.S. pilots who bailed out of aircraft damaged on raids over North Vietnam, often doing so under heavy fire.

My introduction came in 1985, through British writer Christopher Robbins’ book, “Air America”. It took me three months to fully digest the book’s contents covering a secret thirty-year history. Hollywood did a hatchet job with their 1990 movie. Though most of the flight scenes lauded were by the pilots, the plot was slanted and poorly developed, wholly failing to capture the essence of the airline or its people.

The airline’s motto was “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, Professionally.” Air America brought supplies to dozens of mountain villages, transported civilian and military personnel throughout the war zones of Southeast Asia, and yes, dropped ammunition to guerrilla fighters. Known for being the first in and last out, one of the last iconic images taken during the Vietnam War shows an Air America Huey helicopter on a rooftop in Saigon picking up evacuees as the city fell to communist North Vietnam.

The Air America archives are stored at the McDermott Library at University of Texas-Dallas, including a plaque listing the 242 crew members who lost their lives in service. The remaining members still do battle, now to establish their status as Veterans. To deny them this honor is just wrong.

July 5, 2016 Flying the Sky Trails

The Liberty Gazette
July 5, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Squinting, I can just make out a distant river meandering through broken canyons, like a large root with smaller branches disappearing into breaks in canyon walls. A plethora of color escapes the ground to meet my eyes, hues vary depending on the vegetation and rock formations through which this river has cut. How different this coursing flow of water that creates part of the border between Oklahoma and Texas looks from above than in the John Wayne movie, Red River. Everything looks different from above.

Linda: Our flight up to the Pacific Northwest that included a stop in Jerome, Idaho gave Mike plenty of opportunity to scan the dirt trails etched into the high rocky terrain below. He reveled in thoughts of hiking those rugged mountain trails. Formerly an avid wilderness traveler between jet-setting trips around the U.S. and the world, it’s something he misses here at sea level. A package deal would be so perfect, like the ones Adventure Pilot used to create in California – fly, bike, kayak, hike.

Meandering trails don’t have to be ground-bound. We recently discussed sky (or air) trails with Yasmina Platt, the Central Southwest Regional Manager for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Mike recalls one such trail that explores the natural wonders of the low-lying Anza Borrego desert near the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley, and another that follows the Oregon Trail from Missouri all the way to Oregon’s fertile Willamette River Valley.

Yas told us she was going to create some new air trails in her region and publish them for pilots who want to explore and learn. She’s created two so far, and is working on more that provide flexible routes and fascinating tidbits on the history and geology of the areas, activities to try, and places to stay. Her first sky trail is “Flying Oz,” the Ozarks Trail! published on AOPA’s blog (, targeting the half million U.S. licensed pilots, and especially the nearly 100,000 pilots who live in the region she serves.

Air trails have been around for decades and some have been hugely popular with significant backing by state parks or tourism departments. Self-guided, they are sort of a flying version of renting a recorded audio tour at a museum. Pilots study the trip beforehand, and print out the information or have it available electronically while flying the tour. With Yasmina’s Ozarks air trail pilots can start and stop the route at any airport and can rearrange the order in which to fly to listed points of interest.
Whether scenic serenity beckons, or you’re drawn to more physical activity, or, if you’d rather take in museums and shopping, its a pilot’s dream of a trip in the Ozarks, through Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Make it a weekend or longer, her air trails can be tailored to taste and style and are centered on flying, from community airports like Liberty’s to small dirt or grass strips out in the wilderness.

If you’re active on social media you can follow Yasmina on Twitter where she is @AOPACentralSW, and if you fly her Ozark air trail, she’d love to hear about it. Using #OzarksAirTrail in your Tweet will get her attention.

Mike: I think about the history of the towns like Coffeeville and Dodge City, Kansas as they slip beneath our wings. I see where rivers roam and envision history as it swept across the landscape before us. Yasmina’s air trails will inspire journeys that will become stories worth telling.