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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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.