Joe Nall 40th Anniversary At Triple Tree Aerodrome

RC’s greatest show on earth

Access additional content by visiting

a shot of the electric runway
01. A shot of the electric runway, taken from the control tower, provides a look at the battery-powered aircraft activity.
one of the author
02. One of the author’s favorite aircraft in the hangar at Triple Tree is Pat Hartness’ Spartan Executive.
ignacio martin
03. Ignacio Martin, Jose Marco, and Vicente Ruano traveled from Spain to Joe Nall Week.

For model airplane enthusiasts or plain ol’ aircraft enthusiasts, Triple Tree Aerodrome, in Woodruff, South Carolina, should be right at the top of your bucket list. Triple Tree hosts both model and full-scale aviation events throughout the year. An event such as Joe Nall Week is a modeler’s dream.

Try to picture this: 400 acres with a 7,000-foot manicured grass runway where, during Joe Nall Week, two separate model flying sites are in place. The runway is so long that it houses the main RC and electric runways, spaced thousands of feet apart. In addition, there is a separate 3D area, Control Line (CL) circles, a lake for float-flying, and an area for helicopters. That’s six separate flying fields located on the same property!

a crowd favorite
04. A crowd favorite, a Lockheed A-12, is ready for the noontime air show.
jet with vectored thrust hovers
05. A J-10 jet with vectored thrust hovers at the 3D line. Few jets flew from the 3D flightline, but this one was right at home.
dunking the tails
06. Dunking the tails of 3D aircraft at the 3D flightline has become a tradition at Joe Nall. Photo by Lee Ray.

All of this just didn’t appear one day. It evolved throughout time with the foresight, hard work, and generosity of Thomas Patterson "Pat" Hartness. Pat became involved with model aviation—more specifically CL modeling—at the ripe old age of 7. For Pat, aviation was a family affair because his parents flew full-scale aircraft for the Civil Air Patrol. In addition to aeromodeling, Pat built his own homebuilt, fullscale airplane and owns many other full-scale aircraft at Triple Tree. The Spartan Executive is my favorite.

Why is it named Joe Nall Week? Pat and Joe Nall met while attending college together. Both shared a love of model aviation. Fast-forward to 1983, and Pat started hosting the Big Bird Fly-In on his property in Greenville, South Carolina. He hosted the event and Joe was the emcee. That’s how it pretty much stayed until 1989, when Joe died in an aircraft accident. In 1990, Pat changed the name of the event to honor his good friend.

Throughout the years, the event grew so much that Pat needed to find a larger venue. In 1997, he purchased an old watermelon farm in Woodruff and got busy transforming it into Triple Tree Aerodrome. The picturesque property is bordered by the Enoree River and has more than 5 miles of walking trails and multiple lakes.

world war i fighters are ready
07. World War I fighters are ready for the Dawn Patrol gaggle at Triple Tree. Photo by Joe Vermillion.
located near the cl circles
08. Located near the CL circles, this 1940s-era control tower is centrally situated on the property.

Pat’s vision has remained the same: to ignite and expand passion for aviation. To this end, Pat established Triple Tree Aerodrome as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and gave the land to the nonprofit as his gift to aviation. Triple Tree now hosts thousands of enthusiasts from around the world.

This was my first visit to Triple Tree and Joe Nall Week. I was amazed at the sheer size of it all. Let me begin with the Joe Nall Week 2022 numbers. There were more than 1,100 registrants, with roughly 1,000 campsites, 40 vendors, and (as nearly as I could tell) approximately 5,000 models of every size.

During Joe Nall Week, Triple Tree becomes a huge campsite with separate neighborhoods scattered throughout the property. 3D modelers and their families camp near the 3D line. Electric fliers converge near the electric flightline, and so on. To move around and visit these sites, separate transportation is a must. Many rent golf carts. Others bring along gas- and electric-powered minibikes, bicycles, small motorcycles, and off-road vehicles. There’s even a free golf cart taxi service moving people to and from all of the attractions.

a student and instructor during
09. A student and instructor during a CL flight. Note the two-channel radio in the instructor’s hand, with his finger on the throttle.
a hangar 9 bronco makes a low
10. A Hangar 9 Bronco makes a low, inverted pass.
a glow-powered
11. A glow-powered L-4 Grasshopper gets ready to lift off from Lake Montana.

I was able to visit each of the flying sites numerous times during my stay. I started with the site farthest away from the entrance—the 3D area. At this site, there’s a pilots’ lounge, a beautiful pavilion, and immaculate bathrooms and showers. At night, when the temperatures dropped, people gathered around Pat’s Giant Fireball to keep warm.

It was here that I met a group of young modeling enthusiasts from Spain. It was their first time in the US and they were having the time of their lives. They didn’t ship their aerobatic models, but they were able to rent some for the weeklong event.

The 3D line was busy day and night. On Thursday, the 3D area hosted an electric Combat flight. On the other side of the 1940s-era control tower are the three CL circles. Anyone who wished to try CL flying was happily given the opportunity using an electric-powered model that utilized an RC throttle. An instructor stood behind the student, holding the radio in one hand for throttle control and placing the other hand over the student’s hand to guide the model.

Having never flown CL, I gave it my best shot. After seven times around, I hit the ground and knocked off the propeller. I staggered off the circle like a drunken sailor. My good friends now call me Spinderella and I have a renewed respect and admiration for CL pilots! It’s utterly amazing to watch them perform loops, Figure Eights, four-leaf clovers, and other maneuvers, all while attached to the model by a pair of wires.

an assistant readies
12. An assistant readies a CL model for flight. The author also took the opportunity to make a CL flight.
triple tree executive
13. Triple Tree Executive Director Robb Williams passes the microphone to Pat Hartness at the AMA meeting.
this align t rex 700
14. This Align T-Rex 700 was one of many helis that flew from the helicopter flightline during the event. Ray photo.

The electric flightline was well attended with all types of scale and nonscale models. From warbirds to flying wings, some of these models seem to break the sound barrier. At night, the electric line exploded with luminescent flying wings.

Across the way and down the road a piece was Lake Montana, where anything with floats took to the sky. This was also my first experience with float-flying and I’m happy to report that I did much better here than with CL flying. Most of the float models that I watched performed well, but there were a couple of occasions where models were transported back to shore via the "Ride of Shame" battery-powered boat.

The main runway, which was by far the most attended, was the busiest and featured the greatest variety of models. Everything from World War I types to modern-day jets shared the air. Flying started at dawn and went all the way through dusk. The midday flight demonstrations featured some of the industry’s leaders in Giant Scale manufacturing and, as always, were thrilling to watch.

The majority of attendees brought food to cook at their own campsites, but if you were hungry, there was no lack of a good meal at Triple Tree. The vendor area featured a large tent that served breakfast and lunch, plus food trucks served southern-style barbecue. There was also a Chick-fil-A truck and an ice cream vendor. Additionally, there was a cook-your-own-steak dinner on Wednesday, an AMA dinner on Thursday, and a barbecue on Friday, all held at the hangar. No one went hungry during his or her stay at Triple Tree!

So, what did I enjoy the most as a first-timer at Joe Nall Week? Well, I would have to say it was meeting with old friends and making some new ones. It’s a love of aircraft and people here at Triple Tree, and we were blessed with both.


Triple Tree Aerodrome

[email protected]

Facebook Twitter Share

Add new comment