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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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.

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