Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today I’m featuring a husband and wife writing team with a unique spin on what they do for work and fun—flying. This talented team is opening up the world of aviation to the general public in their collection of short stories about flying, the pilots who love to fly, and the adventures we non-pilots know nothing about. I think you’ll find their story interesting. So, here’s Linda Street-Ely to tell us about writing and flying adventures. Welcome, Linda!
Delightful stories of flying adventures
By Linda Street-Ely
My husband and I are co-pilots and co-authors. We’re in our fourteenth year now as columnists in our local newspaper, with a unique topic. We write about aviation, but we write for the non-flying general public. We aim to put a face to a world that’s unfamiliar to many, with exciting stories about people, places, and adventures.
About two months before the tenth anniversary of “Ely Air Lines,” I got the wild idea to select our top stories since day one of the column and put them into a book. Thinking we could have a book out in two months was not a realistic goal, but two and a half years and thousands of edits later, a two-volume set emerged. One hundred stories selected from 520 written to inform, entertain, and delight readers from all walks of life.
About half the stories are of our own flying adventures in our Grumman Cheetah, including cross-country air racing, fly-in campouts, and a punkin-chunkin’ contest. The rest cover a wide variety of perspectives and the many faces of aviation: a grandma who learned to fly after her husband’s heart attack made him medically unfit to exercise the privileges of his pilot certificate; a professional percussionist from the Houston Symphony who loves to fly rescue pets to new forever homes; a world-class artist who traded in flying for art (and we’re all better off for it). There’s adorable little Lauren (now grown up and teaching others how to fly) who we met when she was eight years old and flying with her dad in their family Bonanza; a wounded warrior shot in the neck in Iraq whose determination brought him to air racing; mission flying in Mexico and Africa. There’s even a beautiful sample of a pilot’s letters home while flying in Burma at the end of WWII.
We selected stories of crop dusters, corporate pilots, aerobatics, and even some with arts and culinary themes. Basketball players, a NASA statistician, a jockey, farmers, and priests show the wide reach of aviation. And there are many stories of triumph. We love those best, the story of the human spirit, created by God.
We recently started a publishing company, Paper Airplane Publishing, LLC, and are looking forward to signing up new authors. Meanwhile, our weekly column continues, and we each have our own writing projects, while also employed full time in aviation. Mike is working on his next book that compares flying of forty years ago with today. I just finished my first play, a story about a notorious ancestor in medieval Scotland, and I am now working on a sequel. My testimony of faith in the midst of tragedy is what got me started writing books, and a short children’s book came after that.
Writing the two volumes of Ely Air Lines: Select Stories from 10 Years of a Weekly Column was an adventure in itself, which we think is reflected in the stories.
Ely Air Lines: Select Stories from 10 Years of a Weekly Column
Volumes 1 and 2
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Delightful stories of flying adventures from around the globe. Adventurous and heartwarming. Written by pilots.
Ely Air Lines is a captivating 2-volume set of 100 short stories that inspire and educate, written by pilots Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely. Step aboard to enjoy a collection of stories that explore the vast realm of the flyer’s world.
Buckle up and fly with Mike and Linda to discover amazing people, interesting places, and the conquest of flight.
A Picture of Courage
Linda: I met Chris Sullivan as a fellow cross-country air racer in 2016. It was his first race, and he was admittedly nervous.
“I’d always wanted to learn to fly. When I discovered Able Flight, I submitted my application for a scholarship and was selected to come to Purdue University for training.”
Chris’ first flight was in May 2014 in a Sky Arrow, an aircraft equipped with adaptive rudder controls, when he entered Able Flight’s intensive training course nine years after being hit by sniper fire.
It was May 21, 2005. The 256th Infantry Brigade, Louisiana Army National Guard, had been tasked with locating and disarming IEDs just outside Baghdad Airport. As the team worked carefully, the enemy watched. Suddenly, bullets flew, one entering Chris’ neck and exiting his back.
Nobody else was hit. Sergeant Sullivan lay on the ground, bleeding from his neck. He couldn’t move or speak. His vocal cords burned but he felt no pain; the sniper’s bullet had severed his spine. His squad frantically laid down suppression fire and attempted to evacuate him. They were doing their job, just as they had been trained.
Carried to safety behind a Humvee, Chris could hear the radio. Apache helicopters were needed to blanket the area with more suppression fire for Blackhawk helicopters to swoop in for the rescue, but the Apaches were on other missions. He knew they were too far to reach him before he bled to death, but he wasn’t afraid.
He prayed, “Lord, if it’s time to bring me home, I’m okay with that, but I will fight it as long as I can because I have so much more to do.” Unable to speak well, he smiled, hoping it would calm his buddies as his blood spilled out.
Then, over the radio squelched the news: two Apaches were within three miles and on their way, hot and heavy—fully loaded with ammo!
God didn’t bring Chris home to heaven that day, and so began the long, painful road to recovery. Knowing his company would return from deployment in three-and-a-half months, he wanted to greet them, so he asked the doctors for an aggressive rehab plan. That reunion stateside was a great motivator, but once back home in Mire, Louisiana, doubt and fear prowled around him as he fought against post-traumatic stress. What was his purpose, now that he was paralyzed?
Chris found his purpose in helping veterans through the Veterans Administration, with empathy that only someone who has been there can have. Four years later, he joined Louisiana State Representative Rodney Alexander’s staff as a caseworker for wounded warriors.
He shared his story at fundraisers and despite his paralysis, he learned to scuba dive, went skydiving, and became a National Veterans Wheelchair Games silver medalist in snow skiing. And on the second anniversary of being wounded, our hero began dating his future wife, later witnessing another miracle—the birth of their son.
Chris worked hard at Able Flight, in ground school several hours a day and flying twice daily. Then, the night before his check ride, he fell ill with an infection that spread to his bones. Courageously, he fought back for a month and after a full recovery, he returned to Purdue to earn his wings.
Only two years after his first flight, he climbed out of his wheelchair and into the cockpit. The day was hot, so friends helped drape ice-cold cloths on his neck because his body couldn’t regulate temperature.
Engines started, props turned, and airplanes taxied to the runway. There in the Sky Arrow, eleven years after facing death in war, Chris Sullivan taxied in line and looked down the row of race planes. A tear came as he took the starting line, throttled up, and became: a race pilot. The trophy awarded to him symbolizes so much more than finishing first in his class in that race. It is the fight he wins every day and, “as long as I can, because I have so much more to do.”
Want to read more aviation stories?
You can find Ely Air Lines Volume 1 at Amazon
and Ely Air Lines Volume 2 at Amazon
About the Authors:
Mike Ely has logged thousands of hours over more than forty years as a professional pilot. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate with multiple type ratings and a flight instructor certificate. Mike has taught people to fly in small single engine airplanes, gliders, turboprops, and corporate jets. As a freight pilot and an international corporate pilot, he has flown through all kinds of weather, to many places, both exotic and boring. His love for writing was instilled by his father at an early age.
Linda Street-Ely is an award-winning, multi-genre author. She also holds an airline transport pilot certificate, a commercial seaplane certificate and a tailwheel endorsement. She has air raced all over the U.S., including four times in the historic all-women’s transcontinental Air Race Classic. Besides flying, Linda has a keen appreciation for great storytelling. She loves to travel the world, meet people, and learn about other cultures because she believes great stories are everywhere.
Together, Linda and Mike are “Team Ely,” five-time National Champions of the Sport Air Racing League, racing their Grumman Cheetah, named the “Elyminator,” and dubbed “The Fastest Cheetah in the Known Universe.” They live in Liberty, Texas.
Connect with Team Ely at
Website: Paper Airplane Publishing
Facebook: Paper Airplane Publishing
Twitter: Paper Airplane Publishing