formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

September 25, 2018 The PanAm Experience

The Liberty Gazette
September 25, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Regular readers of Ely Air Lines know that we often highlight the benefits of experience over souvenirs; of having stories over having things. Just last week I was chatting with a group of friends about interesting places around the world. We got to talking about all the enriching reasons we love to travel. I turned to the former army helicopter pilot and with a wink and an agreeable point of the finger, I said, “Stories.” He nodded and smiled wide. “Yes! Stories! That’s what we get!”

Experiences give us stories, and one man who was eager to create—or recreate—an exquisite experience is Anthony Toth.

Anthony was fascinated, some may say obsessed, with airplanes when he was a kid. At first, he just took hundreds of pictures of the planes he rode on from his home in Ohio to visit his grandparents in Germany. But his interest grew and soon he collected things—parts, supplies, anything left over the airline didn’t want, or things he found discarded.

Years of research brought Anthony to the conclusion that Pan Am was the best airline in the world. Ever. His collections grew and years later, he had an aircraft cabin, interior parts, and amazing array of collectible goodies from the now-gone company.

People who flew on Pan Am often expressed delight over the experience, and that was exactly what Anthony wanted to bring back. He couldn’t build a functioning airline, but he had enough genuine parts for something useful…as a restaurant, that is. But not just any restaurant. This would be the Pan Am Experience.

Mike: At first, he operated out of his garage, and only for friends. But when Talaat Captan, founder of Air Hollywood, discovered Anthony’s unique gig, he offered a great partnership deal. Air Hollywood is a set of studios where aviation scenes are created for movies. They are fully in tune with the combination of aviation and entertainment, the perfect partner for Anthony’s business. Today you can go to Los Angeles and dine in Pan Am’s first Boeing 747-200 now housed in a movie studio.

First, fork up $875 per person. Then when you check in, you’ll receive a 1970’s style boarding pass, ticket jacket, and first-class carry-on tag. You’ll be greeted as you board the aircraft by a “stewardess” (in uniform) who will hand you the drink of your choice and welcome you to explore First Class, Clipper Class, and the Upper Deck dining room.

You won’t escape the safety briefing, but you will get a gourmet six-course meal served on fine china, with real glass and silverware, just as it used to be. You can stay for a movie if you like, but they’ll probably be showing Airplane!

On you will find more information, including their grateful bid for you to come see for yourself: “We know you have many choices of retro-airline themed dinner parties, but we appreciate you’ve chosen to dine with us…”

September 18, 2018 Uncle Bob

The Liberty Gazette
September 18, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Robert Freeman was a brilliant fellow. “Uncle Bob” to his nieces and nephews, he was a downright delightful human being who lived his life with impeccable ethics. So whether you want to talk about high moral standards or creative genius, you could do both talking about Uncle Bob.

Of course it goes without saying Uncle Bob was a pilot (insert winking emoji here). One of the most brow–raising stories has to do with what he did to make flying safer.

When Uncle Bob lent his engineering skills to Boeing Air Transport, he came up with a way for their airplanes to land in fog and other low–visibility conditions. It’s a system we still use today called Instrument Landing System, or ILS. There’s a high likelihood that if you rode on an airline landing in Houston sometime since we’ve been writing this column, your flight crew brought you home via an ILS approach to the runway. At either airport. Unfortunately, however, Uncle Bob’s system didn’t start out here. Not in Houston. Not in Texas. Not even in the U.S. But that wasn’t his fault.

When Bob Freeman took his design and plans for safer landings to the Civil Aeronautics Authority (predecessor to the FAA), the little government workers were afraid it might not be safe for use on passenger planes.

If you had such a stellar invention you knew could save lives but were faced with such ignorance, what would you do? If you had the fortitude of Uncle Bob, you wouldn’t give up. When government representatives told you to hawk your wares elsewhere you’d say fine. And had you been Bob Freeman on that day when the U.S. government said that, you would have been handed a letter that said something to the effect of, Go sell it anywhere in the world you want to. We don’t care. And of course, if you were Bob Freeman, you would do exactly that. And you’d hold on tight to that letter.

Rejected by his own country, Uncle Bob went to Japan and showed them his invention. This was 1935, seven years before they attacked us at Pearl Harbor. While Uncle Bob was an amazingly talented guy, he didn’t have a Magic 8 Ball, just an invention to sell.

Not long after returning home from installing his system at Japanese airports, the U.S. government charged him with treason. Friends, that’s heavy. But Uncle Bob had a clear conscience—and a letter.

When the prosecution finally rested after two days of describing what an awful person Bob Freeman was, our defendant confidently approached the bench (without a lawyer) and handed that letter to the judge.

There was no need to put on a defense. The judge gaveled, “Case dismissed.”

If you look up the inventor of the Instrument Landing System you will see a different name credited. But now you know more than Google.

Thanks to the lovely artist and Dayton resident Helene Noyer for this great story about her Uncle Bob.

September 11, 2018 Travel

The Liberty Gazette
September 11, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Apart from war-related flying, weather research, search and rescue, mercy flights, and such, when we consider travel by air it brings us thoughts of adventure waiting on the horizon. But travel does more than jet us away from home. When we go to faraway places we learn about other cultures. If we are open to it, we also learn about ourselves, outside our comfort zone.

We re-evaluate values; experiences versus things. For example:

- Climbing to the top of Sniper Tower in Mostar, Bosnia and witnessing the messages of peace and remembrance in street art;

- Finding the Pittman Apartment building in Saigon—the one in the iconic photo of a helicopter lifting some of the last few people out of the country as the enemy rolled down the streets in tanks;

- Our souls soaking in beautiful Cambodia and her lovely people who have suffered immensely, yet their art is healing a wounded nation.

We’ve seen firsthand how God uses art to heal in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It’s powerful. We’ve met survivors and descendants of those who suffered. We’ve heard their stories and they have moved us. Experience versus things? There is no souvenir of that worth.

Mike: There’s so much more to the universe than the little space we take up. Most people who travel report a significantly deeper sense of connection to the rest of the humanity. But to get this benefit, we must be immersed in the culture we visit. Cruises, resorts, and shopping don’t show us the real world. To be in the neighborhoods and visit people in their homes, to discover their customs, traditions, daily life, is to gain appreciation for our differences and similarities.

I flew a trip to the Dominican Republic for the wedding of the French Prince Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou to the daughter of a friend of my boss. My co-pilot and I did not attend the wedding but remained in the country for a week, put up at an exclusive resort. Resort life did not give much of a window into the lives of the people in the D.R. All around the outside of the compound were ramshackle homes, most only half built. These people worked behind the scenes at the resort but were not allowed to interact with guests. We were discouraged from leaving the compound except in one of the resort vehicles to and from the airport.

I contrast this with Alex, our enterprising tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He took us to his village and his home. We tasted local herbs and learned about how a neighbor extracts sap from a tree, rising early to boil it carefully for hours in a wide ten-gallon cast iron bowl hung crudely over a fire to make sweet syrup, which he sells in the afternoon. Cambodian children warmed our hearts as they walked dirt roads with their arms around each other—buddies, like kids everywhere.

We are enriched as we travel beyond our borders to truly live in God's creation.

September 4, 2018 GAMA Challenge

The Liberty Gazette
September 4, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

When some people see insurmountable problems, others see opportunity. We find examples in inventors of yesteryear and today, in everything from the wheel to gaming software. Wilbur and Orville Wright were two inventors who welcomed the challenges involved in building a flying machine.

Think about the fact that before the airplane was invented, nobody knew what a propeller was, much less how it worked, or how to make one. Understand that not just any engine would work for an airplane. They needed the right power-to-weight ratio to make their invention fly. No engine like that had been made, so they built their own. And no one knew beans about aerodynamics. The Wrights saved their skin probably many times over by inventing the wind tunnel where they could first test their flight control theories before boarding the Wright Flyer and risking their necks.

Before the whole airplane could be a reality, all the details had to be figured out.

So all this to say: teachers, students, ISDs, heads-up, here’s your opportunity to soar with ground-breaking challenges.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is sponsoring the Aviation Design Challenge to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education through aviation curriculum and a virtual fly-off in high schools across the United States.

Registration is limited to the first 150 U.S. high schools (all types) that complete the online registration form. That includes Liberty, Dayton, Hardin, and all the other schools around here. The deadline to enter is in April next year. Teams, which can be either high school classes or after-school programs, must include at least, but not limited to, four students, including at least one male student and one female student, with the exception of single-sex schools. Only one team per school may enter.

Schools registered for the competition will receive complimentary “Fly to Learn” curricula, which comes with flight simulation software powered by X-Plane.

In the competition, teachers guide students through the science of flight and airplane design, completing the curricula in approximately six weeks in the classroom or in four weeks through an accelerated program. Each team will apply what they have learned by modifying the design of an airplane. The schools will then compete in a virtual fly-off, scored on aerodynamic and performance parameters while flying a specific mission profile. Judges from GAMA will select the winning school based on that score and other factors.

The prize is an all-expenses-paid trip for up to four high school students, one teacher and one chaperone from the winning team to experience general aviation manufacturing firsthand.

For more information about the Aviation Design Challenge, including registration dates for future competitions, those interested should subscribe to the Aviation Design Challenge mailing list.

Click here for links to everything you need. Get your thinking cap on and channel your inner Wilbur or Orville. The 2015 winners were a group of homeschoolers in Wisconsin. Last year’s winning team is from Olney High School. No reason the next winners couldn’t be from Liberty County.

August 28, 2018 A Story of Bill and Lou

The Liberty Gazette
August 28, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

This is a story of Bill and Lou.

Bill was American, born in Detroit in 1881. Bill’s dad had migrated from Germany in search of wealth and found it in timber and mineral rights. He could afford the best schools for his young Bill, who was educated in Switzerland and at Yale. Unfortunately, Bill’s dad died of influenza when the youngster was only eight, but his father’s influence was strong enough to carry the boy on to his own career.

Lou was French, born in 1883. He grew up to be one of the most celebrated aviators of his time. Lou set and broke records for altitude, speed, distance, and time. He also built airplanes.

There was in those days great competition between France and the United States for claims of aviation firsts, but Lou was so revered that when the first air meet was planned in this country, in 1910, the organizers paid a handsome sum to convince him to attend. Thousands would come to Los Angeles see Lou fly.

Lots of other highly skilled pilots came for the meet too. And so did Bill. He wasn’t a pilot, but he had left the lumber business to make boats, and the first time he saw an aeroplane, he was fascinated. He had made his home and boat-building business in Seattle but determined to make the trip south to Los Angeles.

As he walked the airfield, he couldn’t help but ask for a ride from every pilot he saw. Perhaps the competitive culture of those pioneers of aviation wasn’t as community–minded as aviators today. This was back when the Wright brothers were aggressively trying to protect their patents from infringement and everyone wanted to grab a piece of the future without sharing. All the pilots turned him down. No one was willing to let him taste the air.

Then Bill came upon Lou. The meet was to last for several days, and Lou promised that when he was finished competing, he’d take Bill flying. After three days’ wait, Bill looked for Lou, eager for his first flight. Sadly, Lou had already left town.

But Bill wouldn’t be deterred. He would find a way to experience flight.

In 1914, a friend took Bill flying. Finally, he could drink from the cup of aerial addiction. He would discover the aviator’s soul that lived within him.

Boating was nice, but flying was better, so Bill began building airplanes.

As his business grew, he added flight services. Air mail was a new thing, and Bill’s company won government contracts to deliver mail.

These days, you can visit the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Houston’s Hobby Airport and see photos, memorabilia, and read more about Louis Paulhan, the first to fly in Texas.

But you can go just about anywhere to see what Bill left behind. William Boeing’s airplanes and his flying service that eventually became United Airlines are the legacy of Bill.

August 21, 2018 Glaisher, Mathematician

The Liberty Gazette
August 21, 2018
Ely Air Lines By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: To introduce our story last week about William Rankin, the man who rode thunder, I began with a tip of the hat to Charles Peirce, an ancestor of mine who wrote a book chronicling his 57 years of meteorological research.

I get excited when my family’s genealogy intersects with aviation or weather. Now, in a very strange and fascinating turn of events, I have discovered some old facts that lead to one of those intersections in an odd way.

Superstar mathematician and astronomer James Glaisher (senior) was the Superintendent of the Magnetical and Meteorological Department at the Royal Observatory in England. He was the first to recognize the existence of the stratosphere. This is a humongous achievement.

He had a son named after him whom the family called Lee. The elder Glaisher made balloon ascents, sometimes with Lee aboard. Here’s a description from the Report of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society of 1862:

“One of the main objects of [Glaisher’s] ascents was to extend and improve our knowledge of the relation which exists between increase of elevation and the corresponding variations of temperature and moisture, these variations in their turn having an intimate bearing on the theoretic determination of atmospheric refraction. The results of Mr. Glaisher's observations indicate that the [current] hypothesis ... must be abandoned ...”

Game changer!

The junior Glaisher also showed signs of mathematic genius and graduated from Trinity University in Cambridge (UK), second in his class of 1871. Well-known among his classmates for flying balloons with his dad, as the eventual Dr. Glaisher crossed the stage to receive his undergraduate degree, all the students sang a tune, “Up in a balloon, boys,” in honor of the work of his dad.

I descend from none of the above. However, years later, 1917, the younger Dr. Glaisher attended a Sotheby’s auction and found some items of interest, namely, personal papers of John Napier, the inventor of logarithms.

Among those papers was a contract between Napier and Sir Robert Logan, the 7th and Last Baron of Restalrig (Scotland). Cousin Robert hired his buddy Napier to figure out if there was any buried treasure inside his castle.

Thanks to Dr. Glaisher for donating the contract to Trinity University, and thanks to them for sending me a photo of the actual handwritten contract as well as the typed version, I set about to translate Scottish Gaelic into modern-day English.

The contract is clear that if treasure was found, Napier would get one-third and the signed paper would be destroyed. Since it still exists, we presume poor Cousin Robert didn’t have any buried treasure in that castle.

We’re planning to visit the castle ruins next year. Not much remains more than a rock, but its strategic location on the shore not far from Edinburgh made it ripe for some historical events in the life of Scotland. So even if I only get to see a rock on a cliff and there’s no treasure left to me in a will, it will be a fun trip.