Fly-overs to mark Rock Hill/York County Airport's 50th year

Oct. 2, 2009


Oct. 1--A vintage military jet and groups of small planes will take to the skies Saturday to mark the Rock Hill/York County Airport's 50th anniversary.

Airport director Eric Ramsdell has spent months planning the event, which includes pilots performing a "missing man" formation, a fly-over by a T-33 military jet and demonstrations from mission relief planes that land in jungles around the world.

The ceremonies, free and open to the public, run from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fly-overs will take place above the airport, situated off S.C. 161 on the city's northwest side.

Organizers sent invitations to homes near the airport, hoping to make neighbors aware that jets would be flying overhead. "Rather than just advise them this was going to happen, we've asked them to join us," said Ramsdell.

A goodwill gesture?

The airport's future has become a source of controversy. Neighbors fought a decision to impose tighter zoning rules in the flight pattern, fearing it would lead to an airport expansion.

Long-term plans call for the 5,500-foot runway to be lengthened by 1,000 feet.

"Some people absolutely won't come," said Ralph Grigg, chairman of the airport commission. "Others will say, 'Well, I'll go see what's going on.' It's trying to get the community to come see what kind of airport they do have."

Theresa Barcia got an invitation. But the Stafford Park resident has no plans to attend, saying she hears airplanes often enough from her home south of the runway.

"Nobody's listened to us and the problems that we have," said Barcia. "They haven't really made any concessions for us. I don't think we'll be going."

The city talked about hosting a full air show before scaling back to a low-key, less expensive affair, Grigg said.

Among the aircraft in Saturday's festivities: A T-33 military jet used in Korea and Vietnam and relief planes flown by JAARS, a Christian missionary group based in Waxhaw, N.C.

Pilots in a group called TeamRV will fly small kit planes in various formations.

Nearly 1,000 people have been invited, including old-timers who remember Rock Hill's first airport on a grassy strip near Saluda Road.

The facility moved to its current location in 1959 and was renamed Bryant Field in honor of Rock Hill's Robert E. "Bob" Bryant, who gained acclaim for his record-breaking, non-stop light plane flight from Miami, to Camden, NJ in 1935.

Want to go?

The free, rain-or-shine event is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vendors will sell food to benefit the Rock Hill Parks Foundation.

An antique car and tractor show is planned, along with exhibits by the Civil Air Patrol, Cessna and Carolina Aviation Museum. Children can take a bicycle safety clinic from Piedmont Medical Center.

Matt Garfield 803-329-4063