The Liberty Gazette
January 19, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: When you visit the Wings Over Houston airshow you hear the announcer talk about vintage aircraft and military re-enactments helping to keep history alive. In addition to the critical roles that flying machines have held in times of strife and war, they’ve also ignited something deep inside many a pioneer, those with curiosity about the world in which we live. Today, these are the people who aren’t satisfied sitting at home watching television, but obey an inner appeal to discover, and to venture out, to unfamiliar places.
Alan Cobham flew across Africa in his Imperial Airways de Havilland DH 50J biplane in 1925 on just such a mission. Two years later the famed Charles Lindbergh piloted the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and five years after that a similar flight was achieved by Amelia Earhart as the first female to navigate the airways across that ocean.
But in between these trans-Atlantic crossings by Lindbergh and Earhart was an admirable feat by Amy Johnson, who in 1930 had none of the modern electronic helps and gadgets we have today. Piloting an open cockpit biplane equipped with nothing more than basic period flight instruments - a compass to tell her direction, an airspeed indicator, and fuel gauges - she flew without autopilot, manually handling the airplane by stick and rudder.
Earlier this month fellow aviatrix Tracey Curtis-Taylor completed an intercontinental flight in a Boeing Stearman, an open cockpit biplane, following closely the path taken by Amy Johnson 85 years ago. Flying this short range airplane on a long range excursion meant frequent stops in some of the most remote parts of the world.
For three months Tracey relived Amy’s story of "dramatic adventure, reckless bravery and one of the greatest solo achievements in history."
The documentary that will come from Tracey’s ambitious tribute to Amy Johnson and many other courageous aviators of the early days will also provide today’s youth - the gaming generations - with living examples of real adventure: 13,000 miles across Europe and the Mediterranean, to Jordan and over the Arabian Desert, across the Gulf of Oman to Pakistan and over India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, crossing the Timor Sea to Australia. This is the spirit that paved the way for the air travel we know today.
To feed your own curiosity, I recommend her website, www.birdinabiplane.com, which is packed full of wonderful stories and photos that have come from this Canadian-born adventurist. From her first flight lesson at age 16 to today at age 53, Tracey has always found something worth flying for to complement the sheer joy of aviating. Actively giving her time and talents to a variety of population segments, she’s created a structured outreach program to lend her voice to aviation history, military families, youth education, help for the disabled, women in aviation, and one of her other passions, environmental conservation.
Tusk Trust, a UK charity that participates in wildlife conservation, communities, and education in Africa, gained her attention as an avid gemology and geography student with the unique ability to appreciate the natural world from the air, at low level.
One of the most treasured things about living in the world of aviation is the amazing people we meet. Most are incredibly humble and just strive to do what they can to make the world a better place - a good thing for all of us, where ever we may be.