formerly "The View From Up Here"

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

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May 10, 2016 Something for Everyone - and the donuts are good

The Liberty Gazette
May 10, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda:  Shane had just been promoted to Captain at a regional airline when his first child was born. He was commuting from their home in Houston to Newark, New Jersey to fly passengers in the Bombardier Q400, riding the jump seat to work because there were no cabin seats available.

With the birth of his daughter the timing felt right to go back to school and add an art degree to his aeronautical sciences degree. Opportunities in Houston were plentiful with in-house graphic arts jobs.

Once while waiting for weather to clear before departing JFK airport he opened ForeFlight, the aviation weather app on his iPhone, and helped passengers understand the reason for delays. They appreciated the pilot who took time to show and explain. He didn't know it then, but eventually he would come to work for that company.

In Kenya, where he grew up, there weren’t a lot of things for kids to do - no soccer, swim team, or club activities. Cultural expectations for teens were to begin a mentoring relationship in a field of interest.

Understandably, his mom didn’t want him sitting around with nothing to do. There was an airport on her way to work, so by age 15 Shane was dropped off at the airport where his mechanical intuition developed into skill in his first job with East African Air Charters “in the big hangar”. Most business was flying tourists and journalists, with Shane and the other mechanics keeping the planes airworthy.

“I looked forward to the donuts,” he recollects of his teen years in the hangar. “This lady would come in and for 20 shillings you got a ‘mandazi’ and a cup of tea.”

He started out cleaning engine blocks with Scotch-Brite and kerosene (sans gloves, and hopefully after the donuts). It took two hours to clean one block and there was a whole pile of them, but more importantly he was learning how things got done.

“There was this guy who looked like St. Nicholas, or maybe Yoda, and he knew how to machine all the parts.” Once, a plane got stuck in Sudan, its nose gear collapsed in a pothole. They wanted to send a team to fix the plane but most of the guys didn’t have passports so they sent those who did - one had a little bit of knowledge and the other two had none - and through a landline phone instruction was provided to fix the plane. Repairs went on into the night so they built a berm for one to sit and guard the plane while the others worked on it.

In the afternoons Shane hung out at the hangar next door and talked with passengers and pilots about where they’d been and what they’d done, and all of this made him want to learn to fly.

He opted for college at LeTourneau University in Longview, earning all the pilot certifications to fly for an airline.

Shane now lends his expertise to the aviation software company he used in his days with the airline, and spends his nights at home with his family.

From the necessary network of over 30,000 airports across the U.S. to creative careers that support aviation as a vital mode of transportation important to our economy, there’s something for everyone, which makes Shane’s family very happy.

May 3, 2016 Cities Livable, Cities Die-able

The Liberty Gazette 
May 3, 2016 
Ely Air Lines 
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely 

Linda: One of my all-time favorite pieces of aviation writing is the article written by Rick Durden and published in his column, “The Pilot’s Lounge”, in the super-popular Avweb, July 16, 2007, just a month after we began this column. Rick’s been writing a long time - that piece was #115 in his space in Avweb.

Because of all that, I can nearly forgive him of the lawyer part. While “The Loneliness of a Town Without an Airport” is too long to copy full length here (although Rick did give us permission), we’d like to share the conclusion - but, not before we summarize how he got there.

Rick’s Saturday morning flight in a friend’s Great Lakes Biplane brought lovely views of places he might want to visit with his wife. Quaint towns begging for his company cast their beauty high enough to reach the 1,000’ where Rick was flying, and he wondered if they were friendly and would welcome him in a way that would make him think that would be the perfect place to live.

“‘Hi, I'm here. I'll trade you a ride in the biplane for some ice cream.’ I wonder if it would work?” 

Sadly, he found no runway in this one lovely town, and so began his explanation of the economic advantages of airports and how livable cities have them.

Conclusion: die-able cities do not.

Or, as Rick said: “I could not help but be saddened by the stultifying loneliness a young man or woman must feel to be stuck in a town that does not show any sign of looking outward by having something so simple as an airport runway, that time-honored symbol of a gateway to adventure. Are the kids there easy prey for the beaten-down adults who tell them to quit dreaming, to quit being "foolish" and be content with what they have been given and their lot in life? Are those kids easier prey for the dealer who tells them that this here meth will take them away from this crummy town? 

“How can the people of a town be so insular, so close-minded and content with the mundane, as to not have the most basic of airports? My thoughts returned to my initial desire to visit the town, and I wondered whether I would enjoy the people I might meet who had proclaimed to all who cared to see that they were content and attuned to just beetling across the surface of life rather than living it fully. Would there be anyone there with any sense of creativity, of adventure, of fascination with ideas beyond the horizon? Would they be a town of risk avoiders, insurance salespeople, belt-and-suspenders wearers whose idea of a fabulous time was to go to the local bar and get blotto while watching professional wrestling on the television?

“As I flew into the evening, I concluded that it was a very pretty town. Yet I suspected the people of a town without an airport might well possess other bad habits that are not so immediately observable. Life is short enough that I'm not willing to risk a visit to find out. After all, I'm not going have time to get to see all the places I know for certain I want to see.

“Nevertheless, I will feel sorry for the residents of the town without an airport, especially the kids. They know not what they are missing.”

Read Rick’s entire piece at, The Pilot’s Lounge, #115.