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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October 17, 2017 Aerial Firefighting

The Liberty Gazette
October 17, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Our college flying team gathered on the flight deck as the air tanker pilot spun tales of derring-do in aerial firefighting. He explained the little button on his control yoke, the airplane’s steering wheel. Behind him, the instrument panel was dark in comparison to the light shining through a virtual greenhouse of windows. Most airplane cockpits are too small to fit more than two or three people, even in big airliners. But the spacious cockpit of the C-119, a Korean War era plane nicknamed the Flying Boxcar, held our group of ten with room to spare.

The little button, which got more than a little attention, was a release button, like those used by bombardiers. This one opened doors on the belly of the airplane allowing up to eighteen hundred gallons of fire retardant to fall from a tank. That’s ten thousand pounds. The entire load could be dispersed in less than a second, or the drop could last up to ten seconds. One member of our group got a little too close to that button. The pilot quickly blocked her itchy fingers to prevent spilling expensive, gooey fire retardant and painting the entire ramp bright red.

Years ago, the airplanes dropped a yellow-green type of fire suppressant called Borate, which earned them the nickname, Borate Bombers. Borate was made from Borax mined from the California desert. It not only smothered the fire, it killed all the vegetation. The weight of impact was enough to cut off oxygen to the fire so the Department of Agriculture looked for something that could do the same, but wouldn’t be so harsh on plants. Phos-Chek is the suppressant used today. It’s usually dyed red with iron-sulfate so pilots can see where they have dropped their load. Once the fire has been put out, the sulfate and phosphate salts act as fertilizer to promote regrowth.

One of the airports where our flying team practiced precision landings was an air attack tanker base. Hemet Valley Flying Service operated a number of aircraft including several Flying Boxcars. The airplanes were old even then and have since been retired from service, replaced by DC-10s, 747s and others. The 747 “Supertanker” carries more than ten times the load the C-119 was capable of lifting.

While I marvel at their forms as they glide across lakes to scoop up water, and sweep down valleys with seeming grace to disperse their cargo, I do not forget the reason they exist. They are frontline weapons in a fight to save lives.

Dozens of helicopters and airplanes have been dispatched to help put out these fires that have devoured much of Napa Valley, California’s wine country. The two Canyon fires near Anaheim have claimed over 8,000 acres. The Palmer, Atlas, and Tubbs fires have burned more than 20,000 acres, and resources are stretched. This has been a tragic year of natural disasters. With each event, aviation has provided significant rescue and support.

ElyAirLines.blotspot.com

October 10, 2017 St. Exupery and the Palms

The Liberty Gazette
October 10, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Of the books written by Frenchman, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince” (1943) is probably best known among non-aviators. In the minds of prop heads and turbine cowboys, however, the writer-poet-aristocrat-aviator is to this day one of the most often quoted flyers, with relatable declarations like, “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.”

Natural disasters and those brought about by the will of evil remind us that many of our everyday concerns are tyrannized by petty things. The antithesis to the oppression of wretchedness is born in people such as those who rush to the aid of people in need. We’ve seen a great deal of that during emergencies, and praise the heroes who put others first. Among many aviators who commit beyond the emergencies to the long term welfare of the less fortunate are Mark and Kirsten Palm, serving in the East Sepik province of Papua, New Guinea.

With only one hospital in the province to serve over 500,000 people spread out over millions of acres, medical care is either for those in luxury or luck. For most, the hospital is three to five days travel along the 700-mile Sepik River.

Mark founded Samaritan Aviation to use his sea plane to transport medical staff, patients, medicine, and supplies all over the country. Saint-Exupéry may have appreciated the association of his quote to the selflessness of the Palm family: “Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself.”

One of Mark’s favorite experiences in bartering life came when he was called to fly out to a remote part of Papua to pick up a pregnant lady whose water broke three days prior. Her husband presumed what he’d been told was true–the baby couldn’t still be alive–but he hoped someone would save his wife. Mark flew her to the hospital, while the husband paddled up the river for three days. When he arrived, he found not only his wife alive, but their newborn son as well, and named him Samaritan.

Mark and Kirsten want their three children see things that are bigger than themselves. We think Saint-Exupéry would agree.

Samaritan Aviation was born out of the impact of need when Mark went on a mission trip with a friend during college and considered what he could do to participate in life. From his vision are now two sea planes, three more pilots, a medical director, ministry and support staff, working to fill the medical void.

With Mark’s vision, it is easy to hear Saint-Exupéry saying, “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” (from “The Little Prince”)

Click here to see the interview with Mark and Kirsten.

But you can see so much more if you go directly to Samaritan Aviation’s website.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com 

October 3, 2017 Elder Travel

The Liberty Gazette
October 3, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Here we are into autumn, and soon we’ll be thinking about holiday travel–Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's. Now’s the time to consider a safe travel plan for our elderly loved ones, because preparation can make a substantial difference in a healthy trip.

On a recent airline flight, an elderly woman suddenly felt like she was about to pass out, and got the attention of another passenger, who pushed the call button. No doubt the flight attendants were relieved that a doctor was only two rows away and rushed to the side of the vacationer-turned-patient.

The elderly woman did pass out, her arm muscles spasmed, and her breathing was labored. As the doctor massaged her chest bone she came to. His diagnosis was dehydration, which brought quick action by the crew to get water for her. Unfortunately, the water didn’t stay down, and the scene was repeated four times. Pass out, wake up, drink water, throw up, pass out again… Not a great way to start a vacation.

After a few hours, the episodes subsided and the doctor returned to his seat next to his wife.

Unfortunately, this startling situation isn’t uncommon among the elderly. To learn more on flying at advanced age, we consulted the Journal of Travel Medicine, where Dr. Iain B. McIntosh, a Scottish physician who lectures on geriatric medicine, explains the physiological disadvantages of the older traveler, and what can be done in preparation for travel. If this applies to you or someone you know, you should read Dr. McIntosh’s article, and follow up with a physician.

As we advance in age, Dr. McIntosh explains that decreases in cardiopulmonary and renal function can affect us at altitude. An airplane’s cabin air pressure depends on the altitude flying, but can be as high as the equivalent of eight thousand feet.

With age and altitude, we are less able to handle hypoxia, and our body’s ability to regulate water, sodium, and body temperature is affected.

When we have trouble regulating temperature, including sweating, hyperthermia and dehydration become a greater concern, especially in higher temperatures. In lower temperatures, our body’s poor regulation can cause hypothermia and exposure. When Dr. McIntosh considered temperature extremes, he cautioned that the possibility of stroke increases, and stress in general can increase the risk of heart attack.

Lots of walking and carrying luggage can put an unusual amount of stress on muscles, including the heart, while sitting for long periods brings concern of venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean our older family members should stop flying. The doctor’s advice is to get a health check before travel, stay on schedule with medications, and consider extra insurance and/or the availability of medical care on the trip. Our recommendation is to read his article: Iain B. Mclntosh. Health Hazards and the Elderly Traveler. Journal of Travel Medicine. Volume 5, Issue 1, Version of Record online: 28 JUL 2006.

Wishing you healthy holiday planning.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com