The Liberty Gazette
November 7, 2017Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Last week we brought you a cool story about the toy manufacturer, LEGO®. After press time, I received a reply to my inquiry about whether the biplane kit they created in 1967 was the first LEGO airplane. I learned from the LEGO team there were two planes before the biplane. The first was created in 1964 and was called 303-2 Aeroplane. The following year, they made the 320 Airplane, and then “the amazing 328 Biplane” in 1967.
So in eighty-five years of making toys, it looks like the airplane models are rare. They should be real collectibles! Of course, they’ve made an airport set, jets, Star Wars, and NASA models. But the nostalgic airplanes take us back to an interesting era of flight, when LEGO built a real airport.
As an aside, at the bottom of their company email, below the representative’s signature line, is this: “Did you know? The LEGO Group is one of the world’s largest tyre manufacturers, making more than 675 million tyres in 2015!”
Having stepped on many a LEGO in the dark, I can believe that number!
Mike: Speaking of old airplanes, the showroom-quality Stearman belonging to long time rice sower M & M Air Service is safe in a hangar at the Beaumont Municipal Airport. M & M lost five airplanes in the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, but the Stearman was unscathed. The five that flooded were at the Chambers County airport in Winnie, right along I-10. When the levee was breached, that airport became a basin for four feet of rushing water. Up to eight feet was trapped in the hangars.
Water reached the bottom of the windshields on four crop dusters—Air Tractor 602s—and the top of the windshield of their Cessna 182. They also lost fifteen loader trucks and other equipment, and parts stored in the hangar. On the upside, the company has already replaced those four Air Tractor 602s with three Air Tractor 802s. Now three airplanes can do the job that once required four.
Linda: Reducing the number of airplanes without reducing output should help, given the severe pilot shortage these days. Mike has been busy training pilots to fill vacancies in corporate and charter flight departments. Regional airlines that feed the major airlines are in a hiring binge, competing fiercely for the small pool of prospects. They’re getting creative with incentives so attractive it’s caused a trickle-down shortage of pilots in other flying jobs. Sign-on bonuses are over $30,000 at the regional level.
Mike: Because many pilots at major airlines are reaching mandatory retirement age (sixty-five), there are more openings at the top of the pilot job pyramid. For each pilot moving up, there’s an increase in demand for new blood at the bottom. However, there aren’t enough new ones in the pipeline. This is a major cause of the delays in air travel. The hiring trend shows no sign of slowing down. One could consider this a good time to be a pilot.