By JONI M. FISHER
Aside from the 7,000-foot long, 400-foot wide pristine grass runway, the manned control tower, the granite countertops in the restrooms, and the hospitality of more than 80 volunteers, this year’s Triple Tree Fly-In, held Sept. 3-7 in Woodruff, South Carolina, offered even more upgrades.
Last year, when 800 planes landed, people asked for more room and shade, so the volunteers made it happen. An additional 23 acres of forest was selectively cleared of 400 trees for more shaded camping and for parking planes behind the lower pavilion and restroom/shower facilities.
Volunteers also dug out a pond and built two walking bridges to beautify the cleared area. Pat Hartness, the force behind Triple Tree Aerodrome, said he modeled the bridges after a Monet painting.
The first attempt to stock the pond with fish, according to volunteer Pat Derrick, “didn’t go so well. The pond wasn’t quite deep enough.” Birds of prey had a feeding frenzy on the pricey koi.
In the past the few power stations went to the first to arrive. Last year people asked for more power/water hookups and 28 were installed. At Joe Nall Week, the Oshkosh of radio-controlled aircraft, in May, all the new hookups — rented for $500 per week — sold out in 20 minutes.
This year offered a new al fresco dining experience — 20 food serving sites spread across the lawn by the hangar. Participants feasted on appetizers, side dishes, pork loin, ham, turkey, salads, shish kebabs, pasta, and 21 varieties of desserts. Diners wandered at leisure from table to table while the Spartanburg Jazz Ensemble played big band music.
Notable newcomers this year included the C-46 named The Tinker Bell (N78774), which roared in with a crew of three: Pilot Alex Mello, co-pilot Tom Mulcrone, and engineer Cody Busse. Owned by the city of Monroe, N.C., Tinker Bell is maintained by a non-profit corporation, Warriors and Warbirds, Inc. Lee Myers, who serves on the board of directors, said The Tinker Bell “is one of six in the world still flying and the only one with the original World War II paint scheme.”
Also on hand was the P-51 owned by the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) in Peachtree City, Georgia. Nine pilots bought time to fly it.
A black 1943 Howard DGA 15P (NC29457) owned and flown by Roger and Terese Brown of Aero Acres Airpark in Port St. Lucie, Florida, gleamed like new. Featured in the last print issue of General Aviation News, the Howard made its first trip to Triple Tree this year.
The new John Deere mower can trim the entire runway in two passes. Add in the rest of the mowed acreage and year-round upkeep and mowing is a major task. Derrick explained that with the old mower, as soon as they finished they had to begin again within the week or they’d need to use a bush hog before mowing.
The Military History Club of the Carolinas set up a table for one in remembrance and symbolism of the isolation of a prisoner of war. The table, surrounded by banners of various branches of the military, sat among vintage military jeeps and trucks.
The one change made this year, for the sake of the volunteers, was to discontinue selling avgas. Last year the volunteers were unhappy because they had one fuel truck for 800 aircraft. The pilots were unhappy because they had long wait times for service, so this year pilots were directed to other local airports to spread the work load and to build goodwill. The truck had fuel for emergency needs.
Next year’s schedule at Triple Tree includes four general aviation events and six radio control events.
For more information: TripleTreeAerodrome.com