Special guests will fly in to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, with special guests there to greet and engage them with local and national history.
Beach Aviation Services will have a “Salute Our Heroes Fly-By,” 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Myrtle Beach International Airport’s General Aviation Terminal, where the host is a fixed base operator for Horry County. The event is geared to local and regional pilots, and others passing through the area, including fliers on their way to Lakeland, Fla., for the Sun ’n Fun International Flying Expo, April 5-10 (www.sun-n-fun.org).
Those landing will have time to talk with three retired Air Force officers who each were stationed for periods on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base – Gen. Robert H. Reed and Cols. Joseph S. Barton, George Branch and Charles M. Thrash – and partake in a Southern barbecue lunch.
This fly-in (myrsalutes.com) also will shuttle funds to the United Service Organizations, in honor of all veterans and current service personnel, and a Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday vacation will be up for grabs.
Kirk Lovell, assistant director of Horry County Airports – which owns and operates Myrtle Beach International – and Reed, who lives on the north side of Myrtle Beach, each voiced enthusiasm in the air for “Salute Our Heroes,” another way to show the new era that evolved from an old airbase, which spans almost 4,000 acres, and was first used as an Army Air Corps field from 1940-47, then as an airbase, 1954-93.
Question | How much work went into arranging this red carpet welcome for pilots to fly in, and take everyone involved up, up and away with memories of how the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base occupied its own valve in the heartbeat of this area for decades until 1993?
Lovell | It would have not been possible to host such an incredible event without the help of all our partners. Shell Aviation Fuels will donate $10 to the USO for each of the first 50 aircraft that land; Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday is sponsoring an enter-to-win three-day/two-night golf trip to Myrtle Beach; the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is making sure no pilot who flies in leaves empty handed; and the city of Myrtle Beach secured our great lineup of heroes.
Q. | From how far will pilots be traveling to make a stop here in Myrtle Beach, and how strategically placed this spot an ideal stopping and refueling point en route to Sun ’n Fun in central Florida?
Lovell | Pilots coming to “Salute Our Heroes” could be flying from near and far. “Salute Our Heroes” is being marketed locally, regionally, and to those bound for Sun ’n Fun, which is one of the largest events of its kind in the world. Horry County Department of Airports is promoting “Salute Our Heroes” from the northeast United States to Florida.
Q. | By having this event and barbecue at the General Aviation terminal, what extra spotlight shines on this other side of Myrtle Beach International Airport?
Lovell | We are excited for a fantastic turnout, and is optimistic it will attract pilots who have never stopped at KMYR [the International Civil Aviation Organization code for the airport]. This event is an great opportunity to educate first-time visitors and our regulars about why Myrtle Beach selected for a base, the important missions that originated from the base, and the heroes who served.
“Salute Our Heroes” will pay tribute to men and women of our military and the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. In addition, the event will assist promote the importance of general aviation and the significant roles is plays in the U.S. aviation industry.
Q. | When you look back at the closure of the base, 23 years ago today as we talk [on Thursday], did you ever have any wild imagination what the era for the site would bring, in the more than decades since then?
Reed | No, not really. It’s quite a dramatic change, from what we started with and what we wound up with.
Q. | What have been the most pleasing developments to your eyes?
Reed | The Market Common, the center part where all the retail area is; Grand Park, which also has a lot of emphasis on landscaping; and Farrow Parkway.
Farrow Parkway has a special meaning because it was named after Lt. William Farrow, a Doolittle’s Raiders pilot from World War II, who, after he completed his raid, bailed out over China in Japanese territory, and was captured and taken to be shot. He was from Darlington.
Q. | What is your most cherished memory you like to recount in discussing the stories and history from the airbase?
Reed | From when I was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, which began in 1976, to 1979, and I have fond memories from when we were working in the A-10 Warthog jet into operation from inventory, and we were the first unit to receive it, making it a workable achievement.
Q. | What former building or former site on the base do you drive by that puts your memories in full throttle?
Reed | When I drive by the flight line on the airport road: That’s where our operating aircraft , our squadron, and command post were.
Q. | When these special guests drop in next week, what’s the most important takeaway you want to them to have when they get back on the runway, Florida bound?
Reed | What we’re doing on April 5 is a historical overview and an update on the base site: what was there before, and what’s there now. ... When we talk with the pilots, we want to get their impressions ... and say thanks for taking the time to visit.
Q. | How often do you travel Reed Street and smile, maybe when catching a movie at the end of the block, at the Grand 14 Cinema?
Reed | From time to time, for shopping or something like that, or for dinner out.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
For more information
▪ “Salute Our Heroes Fly-By”: myrsalutes.com
▪ Also, Merchant Marine veterans monument unveiling, with John T. Schmidt S.C. Palmetto Mariner Chapter, 10:30 a.m.-noon Friday at Myrtle Beach’s Warbird Park, on Farrow Parkway, just west of U.S. 17 Business, along southern end of Myrtle Beach International Airport, near cross-intersection with Ocean Boulevard. 843-685-1964 or www.usmmsc.com.