At this year’s Triple Tree Fly-in near Greenville, South Carolina, 80 raffle tickets were offered at $20 each for a one-hour ride in the 1942 PT-17 Stearman (N851WM) owned by the Triple Tree Foundation. If the winner was a pilot, then dual instruction was included.
This pristine Stearman won awards at SUN ‘n FUN earlier in the year. It was restored by Jerry Stadtmiller, a regular volunteer and workshop instructor at Triple Tree.
On Saturday, volunteer Dale Ellis shook up the tickets in a hat in front of a crowd at the lower pavilion. Ellis asked Natalie Reid, of Canton, Georgia, to pick out a ticket. The winner was Joshua Gainey. Joshua did not answer when his name was called, so Dale called the phone number on the ticket and left a message.
In keeping with the Triple Tree motto of “Fun, Fellowship, and Hospitality,” Ellis conferred with volunteer pilot Dennis Kochan, of Winter Haven, Florida. Then Ellis announced they would draw a second name so they could conduct the flight and offer the first winner a flight later in the weekend or one the following year.
On the second drawing, Karl Thomas, a 1,600-hour pilot from Mesquite, Texas, won a flight. He eagerly shook hands with Ellis and Kochan, then they took a golf cart ride to the Stearman, which was parked outside the main hangar on the northern part of the field. This was Thomas’s first visit to Triple Tree and his first ride in a Stearman. He has 10 hours of tailwheel time.
“I can’t get enough of flying,” Thomas said. “I just got back from a 4,000-mile trip from Dallas, Texas, to Glacier National Park in my Cardinal RG.”
Moments after Thomas and Kochan took off in the golf cart, 11-year-old Joshua Gainey answered his voice message about winning a ride. He had been in the new education center with his phone muted when the raffle was drawn. Pat Derek arranged to give Gainey a flight on Sunday. Gainey is from Easley, South Carolina. This was his second visit to Triple Tree Fly-in. The flight on Sunday was his first Stearman flight.