When my husband Henry and I decided that we wanted to fly our Luscombe 8A over to the seventh annual Triple Tree Fly-In near Woodruff, S.C., for the day on Saturday, Sept. 7, I imagined it would be a pleasant day of flying and socializing. When I woke up Thursday and decided I wanted to fly over on Friday and camp instead, we realized we needed a new tent.
We did not regret this decision. Triple Tree Aerodrome, quite frankly, is the most beautiful airport that I’ve ever seen, and it takes time to absorb all this magical place has to offer.
Boasting 7,000 feet of turf runway that is 400 feet wide, this aviator’s paradise is the vision of a gentleman who wanted aviation events, both full scale and RC, to be fun and stress-free. He wanted the attendees to be treated like guests, not just numbers. I should say Pat Hartness (affectionately known as Mr. Pat) has fulfilled this goal grandly.
In addition to the extraordinary runway (which, by the way, makes everybody’s landings look good), the property offers two lakes for fishing. Yes, you can fish out of your airplane and cook your catch for dinner. The Enoree River borders the property if you prefer canoeing or kayaking. If you don’t get enough exercise while strolling through the rows of beautiful airplanes, you can hike the six miles of hiking trails.
There are multiple gazebos where pilots can relax, a very nice shower facility with granite vanity tops and blow dryers. This is an important detail when one has the limited baggage compartment of an 8A. I am a woman who has camped at many fly-ins, and I can most certainly guarantee that most of the shower houses I have used were designed and built by men for men. This ladies shower house offered a rare commodity not found at most other fly-ins: Privacy.
Details — I believe this is what sets this beautiful facility and the fly-in apart from others. It’s the details. In recent years, Mr. Pat and his team saved a nearby 1940s military control tower from demolition and brought it to Triple Tree for use at the events. It fits in perfectly with the surroundings.
A large patio overlooking one of the lakes with an enormous outdoor fireplace surrounds Mr. Pat’s 10,000-square-foot hangar. The hangar is open to guests and houses a few of his favorite toys, including an immaculately restored 1938 Spartan Executive. The patio, with its view of the lake and runway, is the perfect location to enjoy one of the fly-in’s famous evening meals.
When you have to pack light like we do, food and water availability is important. Unlike many aviation events, Triple Tree is known for its food. Your meal ticket, purchased at the time of registration, gets you delectable offerings such as pork loin, filet mignon (which you cook yourself on a huge grill) and the famous BBQ night that includes BBQ, chicken and shrimp. When providing such meals as these, I don’t think it’s a fluke that the field is 7,000 ft. long. That’s one of those details.
Triple Tree is expansive with venues on both sides of the field. Getting around on foot is possible. but would take considerable time and effort. Volunteers with golf carts shuttle guests from the camping area to the central area where the registration gazebo and vendors are located. If you wish to travel over to the hangar/patio/lake area for a tour or for breakfast or dinner, buses run that route continually.
After getting our camp setup on Friday, we found a Luscombe buddy and started the hike back to the vendor area to grab a bite of lunch when a gentleman approached us on a golf cart and asked if we wanted a lift. What service! Of course, we did. He asked if we were enjoying our experience. I raved. The approach was simple. The advisory controllers were professional and helpful. Registration was speedy. The fee was not prohibitive. The grounds were beautiful. He was glad to hear it.
That was when our buddy quietly informed us that the creator of Triple Tree was chauffeuring us. You don’t find that kind of humility in aviation very often. That was how I formally met Mr. Pat Hartness. I tried to express my thanks for inviting us to experience his remarkable facility. Like a true southern gentleman, he expressed his thanks that we came.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that when we decided to take one of the three buses over to the other side to visit the hangar that we would find Mr. Pat in the driver’s seat. We really did enjoy his narrative as we traveled around the property. I was particularly interested when we passed a beast of a mower, and he gave us the story of how his beautiful turf runway needed special care. The mower was developed and manufactured in-house to keep the field looking good. I could see how it has come to be known as the “Augusta National of Aviation.”
“Fun, Fellowship and Hospitality” is not just the motto of Triple Tree. It is the reality, and we experienced this reality firsthand. Mr. Pat and his team of volunteers make you feel welcome. Next year, we’ll stay longer.