Breakfast fly-in draws avid pilots to Horry County field

Karen Ewart and her sixth-grade daughter Madeleine thought it was a nice Sunday morning to go out to breakfast. So Karen piloted her four-seat plane from Fayetteville, N.C., to a remote field in Horry County. Jim Snipes and Adam Lockamy met in Spartanburg and flew to the same destination.

The bacon, eggs and biscuits were good. But nobody came for the food. It was all about the trip.

Myrtle Beach Hardee Airpark, about 10 miles northwest of North Myrtle Beach in the Red Bluff Community, served as host for about 50 members of the South Carolina Fly-In Breakfast Club.

“It’s a nice day to fly,” explained Karen Ewart, as if she were describing a trip to a fast-food drive- through. “It’s an excuse for us to go flying.”

Fifteen small private planes of various styles and vintages took turns landing on the grass air strip while Grand Strand-area members arrived by car for a breakfast that lasted an hour or so inside a hangar.

Guests dined in small groups and watched as planes arrived and departed from as far away as Columbia and Greenville, N.C. Other than a few drawings for small prizes and few brief announcements, it was no day at the beach, just eat and fly back.

“It’s just a way for pilots and their planes to get some exercise,” said Hardee Airpark developer Ron Heidebrink, looking at the cloudless sky. “It’s a perfect day. You couldn’t get it any clearer than that.”

Jim Snipes of Greenville met friend Adam Lockamy in Spartanburg for a flight that lasted about 1 hour, 25 minutes.

Their four-seat Cherokee cruised comfortably at speeds of about 135 mph on the 162-mile trip.

Monitoring GPS devices, guests had no trouble finding the air strip. Each pilot navigated a smooth landing on the green turf.

“We enjoy making the trips,” said Lockamy, who runs a flight school in Spartanburg. “A lot depends on the weather.”

Hardee Airpark has several homes and hangars built around the air strip, which is owned by the homeowners. Heidebrink compares the arrangement to living in a private golf club community.

The aipark is one of about 25 stops scheduled in 2014 for the Breakfast Club, which dates back to 1938.

The next meeting, May 18, is in Lexington County.

Last weekend, more than 40 planes arrived for breakfast in Orangeburg County, just a short flight from Columbia and Charleston.

Before GPS gave audio directions for various forms of transportation, pilots needed to know their geography. Club member Stoney Truett, who flew in from Columbia, said he uses highways and landmarks like automobile drivers use road maps.

“Flying teaches you to find your way around,” said Truett, who didn’t see Hardee Airpark until he was nearly overhead. “I don’t know what some of the younger pilots would do without GPS.”

Though flying to breakfast may sound silly to many people, Truett would be a hard habit for him to break.

“It’s an addiction,” said Truett. “Once it bites you, it bites you hard.”