After not attending Joe Nall for several years, I was looking forward to this trip and it did not disappoint. There were so many changes and upgrades to the flying site, several new flight lines, and expanded camping areas. This really opened up the event and reduced waiting times to get in the air since my last visit.
For those that aren’t into Radio Control airplanes, Joe Nall is the premiere RC event worldwide. Over 1,600 pilots of giant scale RC aircraft come from all across the USA, and many worldwide, to attend the best of the best. Thousands of spectators attend daily, there is a vendor area with all the name brands in attendance, a food court to keep us all happy, and several flight areas spread across this 2 mile long facility.
The trip to South Carolina was familiar as I’ve traveled it several times in the past. Into the heart of Connecticut then trying to avoid New York but failing, I78 through Pennsylvania onto I81 in Maryland and through the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, then I77 to Charlotte and on to I85 and you’re there. 15 hours and 950 miles.
In the past I would stop at a campground in Chambersburg PA, part campground, part farm. It was run by a very nice elderly couple. I hope they are still there and doing well. Other than the smell of methane gas every now and then to remind me of the cows, it was a highlight along the otherwise flat blacktop littered with semi trucks that became a blur for 9 hours a day. Behind schedule I elected to keep moving forward and stop at a truck stop further down the road. In hindsight, I should have made the stop.
Arriving at Triple Tree Aerodrome, home of the Joe Nall event, I was greeted with a new Welcome Center just beyond the entrance. This was the first indication that things have changed. Gone are the Ez-Ups, folding tables and chairs of the gate keepers of the past. I registered, then was off to find a place to camp.
Being late to the game, I had to hunt around for a level spot out of the hot South Carolina sun. While stopping along the main road to regroup, I met a couple watching the festivities. They were tucked back into the trees, enough to be shady in the hot afternoons, but in full sun in the mornings.
They offered me their spot since they were leaving in the morning. So I camped just off the road for the night and captured their spot as they departed in the morning. The van fit right in easily under the trees, yet left a great view of the 3D flight area. It was a convenient spot as the bus stop was right there.
I say bus stop loosely. They had several school busses that traveled the length of the flight lines, which is nearly two miles long, to pick up and deliver pilots anywhere in the facility. You just wave them down, board the bus, and yell when you are near your destination. Very convenient, as I elected to leave my bike at home in favor of packing yet another airplane instead. Although, there were some very creative alternate forms of transportation seen around the facility! Golf carts, custom bicycles, mini-bikes, go carts, gas powered scooters, and good old fashion sneakers.
Having a number of flight lines for the varied flying styles was the best improvement in my opinion. But it was also my least favorite improvement. If you wanted to fly 3D, it was nice that they had a specific area for it and you where not mixed with other non-3D flights. But that also meant that if you fly different styles, it was a hassle moving all your gear from one flight area to another. Flying 3D with both airplanes and helicopters meant my ‘flight station’ was 2 miles apart! Luckily, the helicopters weren’t that bad to transport. They pack small and don’t require a lot of gear, very easy to move. So I setup by the 3D airplane flight line as the airplanes are larger and harder to move.
Flying generally starts the morning the event starts, and is non-stop 24hrs a day until it ends a week later. It’s common to wake up a 4am, look out your RV window, and see a plane in the air. For night flying, pilots light up their airplanes with LED lights inside, on the outside, or just use powerful spot lights from the ground to illuminate their aircraft.
The only disappointment was the Noon time air show. In the past were full-scale aerobatic performances by well-known pilots, and other full scale aircraft such as a trio of AT6s taking off, landing, and doing some low passes. There were no full scale flights at all for 2017. Granted, there were a couple interesting RC aircraft demos flown, but most felt like a live advertisement with purchase and contact information given at the end of the flight. Ok to watch if you are interested in those particular aircraft, but far from an ‘air show’. I miss the days gone by.
Here are some images from the event. In hindsight, I should have taken more still images, but I was in a video kind of mode. You can also see more images and information on the Triple Tree Aerodrome website at Joe Nall Photos and Triple Tree RC Events.