SHORT FINAL By DEB McFARLAND
The forecasters were wrong. I don’t generally pay attention to forecasts until a day or two before my flight because, frankly, here in the South, weather predictions bob up and down nearly as bad as the float on my old fishing pole when cast in a pond of bored fish.
However, the weather in northern Georgia during the month of September set a precedent. Rain. Lots of it. Stuff that settled in for days and days with low ceilings and enough water falling from the sky to strangle a frog.
So when the forecasters on TV and on Internet weather sites predicted heavy rain during the 42nd Annual Thomasville Fly-In, I took the warning seriously. Friday, Oct. 9, came and low ceilings plagued our area, so we decided to drive, not knowing that if we had only waited until after lunch, we could have flown.
Flying a small vintage airplane VFR is as much as an art form as it is a science. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut. My gut was saying, yeah, you might get there fine, but what about the east wind that’s predicted for Sunday? An east wind at my airport usually means low overcast. My gut decided not to fly as well. My gut was wrong, too.
The weather for this year’s Thomasville Fly-In boasted vivid blue sky, snow-white fluffys, a scattered shower or two and temps so hot I thought my poor brain would fry. It didn’t matter — fly or drive, rain or shine, hot or cold, the spirit of Thomasville prevailed. It was a dang good show.
I often wonder why I like this airport and fly-in so much. It could be that the Thomasville Georgia Regional Airport (TVI) has history. From 1943 to 1945, it was the Thomasville Army Airfield training base for reconnaissance and fighter pilots flying the P-39 Aircobra, the P-40 Warhawk and later the P-51 Mustang. The cross runways hint at the airport’s early history, and photographs of that era, found on the new terminal walls, give a glimpse of those times past.
This airport’s spirit not only comes from its past history but also from its living history. James Dekle is a local living treasure. His family’s collection of antique and vintage aircraft engines housed on the field in the Power of the Past Museum humbles collections in other great museums with the variety and rarity of the engines displayed there. Listening to his recollections is a privilege, and during the fly-in there is always a group gathered around him taking in all that knowledge and history.
Past history, living history and current history all combine to make Thomasville, as it is simply known by regular attendees, a beloved fly-in. The Thomasville Aviation Club hosts the fly-in with Irv Nesmith at its helm. I have to admit that I am biased toward Irv. He is, after all, a Luscombe owner. He took the reins of the fly-in when the previous club president, Ronnie Bozeman, could no longer continue.
Ronnie nurtured the event to the level it is today, and when his tenure ended, Irv stepped up to the plate to continue this wonderful tradition. A good fly-in just doesn’t happen; it takes work. Irv can be seen in the food hangar, on the announcer’s stand or at the candy drop. The fly-in volunteers are everywhere making sure planes are parked, folks are shuttled to hotels and registrations are taken. Airport management makes sure fuel is pumped and pilot needs are met. It’s like a well-orchestrated dance.
I appreciate the mechanics of the fly-in. I appreciate the history of the venue. But I still don’t think that is all that makes this fly-in so special. It’s the soul of the event that captures me.
It is unabashedly a fly-in.
This event is a gathering of pilots and airplanes of all kinds for the sake of flying, meeting and enjoying each other. There is no higher purpose. There is no need to justify the act of “flying in.” This is not for an organizational cause or for a club purpose.
During the three days of this event, Henry and I were able to visit with Luscombe pilots and owners while our friend Mike looked over the various C-150s on the field and conversed with their owners. I took pictures of the Pietenpols in attendance for a friend who is building one and Cessna 140s for another. It’s a fly-in for everyone.
The threat of rain and a hot autumn sun beating down on my head did not stop me from meeting old friends and making new ones. It also didn’t stop me from showing off and bragging about my fly-in souvenir button that captured my Lester in all his shiny glory, either. (Lester was this year’s mascot!)
If I had to pinpoint the spirit of Thomasville, it would have to be there in her people, those past and present and those yet to come. For without those good souls, there is no history, no present and no future.
Here’s to the future of Thomasville. Thanks, Irv.
Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.