The long-time owner of Stanton’s Barbecue Fly-In Restaurant near Bennettsville, South Carolina, says it’s time to introduce her fly-in restaurant to a new generation of pilots.
“My husband Lynn started the restaurant in 1972 and because he liked to fly he eventually built an airport across the road,” said Vera Stanton Meggs, widow of the founder. “It wasn’t long before word got around that there was a barbecue restaurant with its own runway.”
“We still have many of our customers from those first years, but I feel like it’s time we introduced ourselves to the new generation of pilots,” she continued. “We want to let them know it’s still a fun place to fly to and that our barbecue is just as good as ever.”
Vera Stanton took over full operation of the business after Lynn Stanton died in 2003.
“I had already been running the place, but wanted to be sure we could make a go of it after Lynn passed,” she explained. “We have and we’re proud to keep up the tradition of having our regular pilots come back to us year after year.”
The 2,300′ grass strip is a bit quirky with a dog-legged configuration down to the parking area, some interesting sandy areas, and a slope that has proved too much for a few aircraft.
A bulletin board at Stanton’s is decorated with photos of aircraft that landed too fast and skidded off the runway. One ended up in the restaurant parking lot.
Pilots say the most endearing thing about Stanton’s is the special treatment they receive.
That began with Charles Lindbergh (Lynn) Stanton, a fun-loving flier who chose 122.9 as the airport common traffic frequency and often took to the airwaves when he heard a low-flying aircraft.
“Anybody up there hungry?” he would transmit.
Anytime he got a reply, flyers were directed to the grass strip just inside the South Carolina state line about three miles southwest of Gibson, North Carolina, near Highway 79. The street address is 2828 Stanton Road, Bennettsville, S.C.
On a recent Saturday, eight aircraft flown by pilots from airfields bordering the Carolinas arrived within a 10-minute span at noon. Soon afterwards the pilot room at the back of Stanton’s was alive with hangar flying stories, most of dubious heritage, and Vera Stanton Meggs pulled up a chair to join the group.
One of the fliers, retired airline captain Jim Hall, who flew his Piper Super Cub over from his airstrip at Lumber Bridge, North Carolina, “I started going over to Stanton’s in the early 1990s. That’s nearly 30 years. It is just a nice little aviation fly-in restaurant, a quiet place to fly in to with good Southern cooking and friendly service.”
Another Stanton regular is Bob Rogers, who also flew in from his own airfield, Tradewinds, near Fayetteville.
“I’ve been flying to Stanton’s for more than 35 years,” Rogers said. “It has always been a great place to fly to. The back room is just for pilots. In years past Lynn Stanton was always sitting back there on the radio talking to guys coming in. He had a Cessna 150 and an ultralight. We were good friends. He and I had the same birthday, Feb. 22, George Washington’s birthday.”
Rogers said his grandson Tristan Arenivas is an example of the younger generation of pilots.
“Tristan, we call him Tea, flew over to Stanton’s when he was two weeks old in 2000 and now he can fly himself over there,” Rogers said. “He has a student pilot’s license and has soloed in a Cessna and a Citabria.”
The pilots room, decorated with aircraft models and the ground radio station of Lynn Stanton just as he left it, can accommodate 50 pilots if needed.
These days, on a busy Saturday or Sunday, perhaps only half a dozen fliers might drop in for lunch or dinner.
“That limited number is one of the reasons we hope to attract more young fliers,” Vera Stanton Meggs said.
Using pilotage to find Stanton’s, follow the railroad from McColl, South Carolina, to Gibson, North Carolina, on the Charlotte sectional and then turn back toward Bennettsville, South Carolina. The field is about three miles out of Gibson just across three small ponds surrounded by trees.
The GPS location is 34.73 N 79.67W. It’s 34 statute miles on the 084 radial of the Chesterfield VOR (108.2) and 35 statute miles on the 003 radial of the Florence VOR (115.2).
Stanton’s is open Thursday-Saturday for lunch and evening meals and for lunch on Sunday. The restaurant phone number is 843-265-4855.
Caution should be exercised when taking off and landing at Stanton’s. Runway 12 has a good approach but take heed of a white sand hump approximately 600′ down the field. Once past the hump pilots need to decelerate quickly because the down-sloped runway end is unforgiving with a ditch and then the highway rather ominously marking the boundary.
The old windsock tends to remain in one position, but an American flag opposite the restaurant gives a reliable wind indication.
Runway 30 has a left dogleg up to the takeoff point. Don’t make the mistake of more than a few fliers who have tried to take off from the broad taxiway and found themselves forced to make a left turn about 800′ uphill under full throttle.
First timers usually make a low pass before landing. The Runway 30 approach is directly over the restaurant and the adjacent highway with touchdown on the upslope.
Field elevation is 208′ and the common traffic frequency at Stanton’s is 122.9.