[Headline: Joe Nall Week]
[Subhead: Triple Tree Aerodrome hosts the most pilots ever]
[Author: Chris Mulcahy]
[Photos by Robert Vess and the author]
Awesome has become a word that is thrown around too easily, usually describing trivial things. Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier was awesome. Neil Armstrong stepping off the Lunar Excursion Module on to the surface of the moon—now that was awesome!
Something else that can be described by the word awesome is what is probably the best RC aircraft gathering in the world. Located in the innocuous town of Woodruff, South Carolina, the Joe Nall event truly is awesome.
Before we dive into all of the airplane stuff, did you ever wonder why it is called the Joe Nall event? Joe Nall was the name of a close friend of Pat Hartness. Pat and Joe shared a passion for RC aircraft, and after Joe passed away, Pat renamed the event in his honor. More information about the history of the event can be found at the Triple Tree website.
Joe Nall is hosted at the Triple Tree Aerodrome, a large aviation sanctuary that doubles as a full-scale field. Although the event began as an International Miniature Aircraft Association (IMAA) Giant Scale only event, it has evolved into a larger, all-encompassing event.
There are several flightlines set up for the event. These include the main, traditional flightline from where most of the Scale aircraft, jets, and sport fliers fly. There is the 3-D flightline, where all of the low-down-on-the-deck 3-D style of flying takes place. Halfway between the 3-D and the main flightline is where small electric-powered aircraft can fly. Catty-cornered to the electrics is the newest flightline to the Joe Nall lineup: two Control Line circles. Near the main entrance to Triple Tree is the helicopter flightline, which goes to show that helis and airplanes can get along!
Back behind the electric area is a large, beautiful lake, which is where the float aircraft fly from. There are actually a couple of smaller ponds in addition to the lake, and when airplanes aren’t dunking floats and/or rudders, you will often see RC boats zipping around.
On the hill, next to the full-scale hangar that generally displays a few pristine full-scale aircraft, is vendor row. This impressive lineup includes 94 of the biggest company names in RC that are set up and open for business all week. Behind vendor row (or in front of, depending on your perspective) are the food vendors, which do an impressive job of keeping the masses fed and watered throughout the event.
There are almost as many campers and RVs as there are airplanes at Joe Nall. You can see everything from a small two-man tent up to the most luxurious motor home you've ever seen and everything in between. With two large bathhouses onsite, camping at Joe Nall can be a great experience.
The action doesn’t stop at sundown. Plenty of flying continues into the night, as does the forging of lifelong friendships.
The event statistics are mind blowing. There were 1,484 registered pilots. Let’s not kid around here, that is a lot of pilots, and they were from all walks of life, young and old. The pilots attending usually travel to the event with at least one other person. Include the large number of spectators, and those attendance numbers start to skyrocket.
The breakdown of pilots ran as follows: 578 pilots on the main flightline; 314 pilots on the 3-D flightline; 355 pilots at the electric flightline; 81 pilots at the float-flying area; 63 pilots at the helicopter flightline; 21 pilots at the CL circles; and 72 pilots simply free-wheeled between flightlines. There were pilots from 45 states, and 10 different countries. By the end of the weeklong event, I heard that there had been roughly 10,000 total guests. Now that’s awesome!
There were aircraft of all shapes and sizes at the event, from the smallest electrics to the largest of Scale aircraft. Of the larger airplanes, Bill Hempel certainly had one of the largest! Bill brought and flew his 65% Fokker Dr.I triplane. With a 16-foot wingspan, it almost looked like a full-scale aircraft sitting on the runway. Powered by a 3W 546cc 48 hp four-cylinder engine and a 43 x 13 propeller, and weighing in at a svelte 121 pounds, the Dr.I hops into the air in a matter of feet and can practically land and stop on a dime.
There were also many impressive performances from classic warbirds of all sizes, an ever- growing jet presence, and even an excellent duo flight with an airplane and helicopter courtesy of Kyle Dahl and Andrew Taylor.
This event is a popular way for vendors to show off their latest models, and is a good way to set your eyes on that new model you have been reading about, and to talk to some of the people who helped develop it. It is always great to see companies connecting directly with their customers.
The spectators remained entertained during the noon demos, and still had plenty of flying and models to check out during the rest of the day. Bob Sadler kept the crowd going with his emcee skills during the demos, and it seemed as though he knew nearly everyone there!
Golf carts were the most popular method of getting from one flightline to another, but there was also a bus shuttle service to give your legs a break if you were hoofing it.
One of the many nice things that I see at Joe Nall each year is that you will rarely see a golf cart with empty seats driving between flightlines, because most people will stop and pick up hitchhikers for the rest of the ride.
A lot of magical things happen at Triple Tree each year, and this year was no exception. A special guest was honored before one of the noon demos. Army Staff Sgt. Scott Millican was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device exploded beneath the vehicle in which he was traveling. Scott was left paralyzed and suffering from multiple fractures.
As part of the Wounded Warrior Project, Chief Aircraft donated to Scott a beautiful Krill Extra 330 that had been finished by Oversprayer Custom Painting and Designs. We all thank Scott for his service and sacrifice, and wish him luck with his new airplane.
The action doesn’t stop when the sun goes down either. Many pilots take to the skies with their latest night fliers, and you will see some of the most unusual and wonderful aircraft lighting up the sky. Friends get together and grill out, telling stories until the wee hours, while other will already be sound asleep, ready to wake everyone else up with the Dawn Patrol.
Whatever your taste for RC flying, there will be some of it at the Joe Nall event, and more than anything, you will find some of the nicest, like-minded people you will ever meet. All of this is made possible by the crew at Triple Tree and, of course, Pat Hartness.
Last but not least, a big thanks to CD Mike Greggory and co-CD Charlie Lasley for taking the helm of such a great event.[dingbat]
Triple Tree Aerodrome