The Liberty Gazette
June 28, 2016Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Retiring from the Las Vegas police force, Garth made his home in beautiful Twin Falls, Idaho. We’ve flown over it and we’ve stopped there for fuel, crossing the Snake River, made infamous in my childhood by Evil Knievel. One advantage of making the aerial crossing of this river in our Cheetah versus an airliner is that we can fly much lower, affording a significantly better view from above of the gorgeous design from the flowing river flanked by mountains not too distant. We can meander, like the river, choosing to circle overhead, follow it one way and then another, sightseeing from the best seats. No wonder Garth would want to retire here.
We didn’t meet him, however, in Twin Falls; we met when we stopped where the fuel was less expensive, in nearby Jerome, Idaho, where ag planes go to refuel and the winds can be howling down the runway, which is certainly better than cursing crosswinds.
Jerome is a small but healthy town just a few miles from Twin Falls. What makes it healthy is that when the newly retired police officer, who also happens to be a pilot, visited the place they asked him if he could manage their airport, the previous manager having recently passed away. Not one to shy away from opportunity, and seeing how he could help the community, Garth first lowered prices, attracting airplanes crossing the country in need of a fuel stop. Next, he began to personally welcome every visitor to his airport. This is what savvy airport managers do – it’s what Jose and Debbie did here in Liberty – walk out to greet folks and offer to help. The fuel here is self-serve, but there’s something about climbing out of an airplane and seeing a big smile, fuel hose in hands that are stuffed into work gloves, and a hearty, “Hi there! Welcome to Jerome! Can I help you with some fuel?” And in our case, through an understanding grin, “I know that look – it’s time to get out and stretch your legs!”
Mike: Airborne for just over three hours, our fannies were ready for a break. We’d risen with the sun to depart Cheyenne early and cross the Northern Rockies in cooler temps that are better for engine performance. I’d been searching the peaks of high boney-back ridges for meandering hiking trails while Linda flew, until finally the land opened into the broad Snake River Valley of Southern Idaho, a land that alternates between irrigation fed circle farms and lava fields.
The heat of the day had not yet exploded as we approached Jerome; the breeze not as much as we would find it the next evening returning to spend the night. Air flows across those mountains, forming swirls and eddies like water flowing over rocks in a river, the faster the flow, the rougher the air. Our arrival was bumpy, but manageable.
For such a small airport it seemed busy. Within the twenty minutes we were there six planes taxied in to take advantage the low fuel price.
Linda: Garth understands that low prices bring customers in, and service keeps them coming back. On our return trip the next evening he loaned us the airport courtesy car and made hotel recommendations for much needed rest before ten more hours flying home.
Don’t let anybody tell you an airport manager can’t make a difference for a town. An airport is a city’s front door, and its manager the face from whom visitors derive their impression of the town. Jerome, Idaho is a must-stop place now, thanks to Garth.