Pilots of all ages descended on the Georgetown County Airport last week for the 2012 meeting of the Lowcountry Warbirds.
Most of them arrived by land, but a handful arrived by air.
One of the oldest pilots was Frank Shumpert, 81, who flew during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Shumpert flew a gray and red T-6 to the event. He suggested last year moving the Warbirds 45th annual event to the airport so pilots could show off their planes.
His T-6 was one of three flown in for the event, along with a Chipmunk and an Army National Guard AH 64D Apache helicopter. The helicopter was flown in from McEntire Joint National Guard Base near Columbia by Maryville native Chief Warrant Officer 3 Frank Campagna and his co-pilot, First Lt. Korey McDavid.
Campagna said it was an “honor and privilege” to fly in and listen to the older pilots swap war stories.
“I lived in the area and saw airplanes coming in and out,” Campagna said. “Just to be part of guys with such history is an honor.”
Campagna did two tours in Iraq and recently returned from Kuwait.
More planes were expected at the Warbirds event, but overcast skies kept several pilots from making the trip.
The bad weather also kept Dan Drost of Plantersville from giving people rides in his orange and white Chipmunk. His airplane was used by the Royal Air Force to train pilots for more than 40 years.
“My airplane is a poor man’s T-6,” Drost joked.
The most disappointed at not getting to fly with Drost was Don Hartley, 15, of Long Island, N.Y. He wants to be a pilot and was looking forward to going up with Drost.
He had to settle for talking about flying with the attendees, including Claymon Grimes, 90.
The guest speaker for the event was amateur pilot Bobby Jonte, who is president and CEO of the Bank of Greeleyville.
With only 17,000 hours of flying under his belt, Jonte said he was a “newbie” among the Warbirds.
Jonte shared his adventures in purchasing antique airplanes, including his first T-6 in 1980, and restoring and maintaining them.
Pete Dubay, who is one of the organizers of the Warbirds, said the events were a way “to get a bunch of geezers out once a year to swap war stories.”
The antique airplanes were such a hit, the group may see if they can get more pilots to fly in during the next meeting on Pearl Harbor Day in 2013.
By Chris Sokoloski
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