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Fly-in at Hartsville Regional Airport brings in Hundreds

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A young boy peeks into the cockpit of an airplane.

HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Twenty-eight pilots soared through the baby-blue skies for a fly-in at Hartsville Regional Airport on Saturday.

It was the first such event in several years, according to Mark DeFields, the fixed-base operator manager for the airport.

The event was sponsored by RiseAero LLC and it is the first “Wings over Hartsville” event and is expected to become an annual celebration.

There was something for everyone at the event. Food trucks, cornhole tournaments, spot landing, flour

drop, best of show aircraft contest, and radio-controlled aircraft demonstrations.

Approximately 300 people packed the field and families gathered with little ones eager to sit in the cockpit.

There was also plenty of water for the hot and sunny day.

“We are hoping to bring an interest in aviation not only to our community, but to the region,” DeFields said. “We do flight training, maintenance work, we sell fuel and we are planning to expand quite a bit using our hangar space.”

DeFields said Hartsville Regional Airport partnered with local radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts to draw attention to aviation — an art that is often not spoken about.

A radio-controlled aircraft is a small flying machine that is controlled remotely by an operator on the ground using a hand-held radio transmitter.

The RC community is flourishing in Hartsville.

“We just want to celebrate Hartsville,” DeFields said. “A lot of people in Hartsville are not aware they have an airport and that is disappointing because the role of this airport in the economic development of Hartsville is big.”

DeFields said the airport brings a lot of business opportunities and exposes children to the aviation route.

“These kids can become pilots, mechanics, linemen and the opportunity for that is right here in Hartsville,” he said.

Sean Anderson, a 19-year-old pilot for RiseAero, is a walking testament to Hartsville’s vision. He has been flying for RiseAero in Hartsville for over a year.

“I will soon be instructing here,” Anderson said. “I got into flying from just a thought. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I realized that there was a shortage in pilots and I thought I would give it a shot.”

Anderson said he had one lesson and knew it was for him because he didn’t want to do anything else.

“I drive from Columbia to Hartsville every day for training,” Anderson said. “It is the best training out there and it is the cheapest. Flight school can get really expensive and RiseAero has reasonable prices. It is a big relief on the wallet.”

Jason Shydler is another pilot with RiseAero. He is from Columbia.

“I travel from Columbia to Hartsville five days out of the week,” he said. “My father worked in aviation for 40 years and after a while I decided to take a discovery flight and I haven’t looked back since.”

Shydler said you have to be a mixture of brave and stupid to fly a plane.

“Despite what people think, airplanes are really safe,” he said. “They are a lot safer than people give them credit for. I would encourage people to take one flight and see where it takes you.”

Freddie Engelbert said he lives by the airport and has always been fascinated by airplanes.

“I think this is a great thing for the community and pilots alike,” he said. “If people come out and show an interest in flying, they can speak to the people over it and can get started doing this type of thing.”

Englebert said he and his son sit on the porch and often watch the airplanes land.

“My son is fascinated by planes as well,” he said. “He is afraid of heights but it is something that moves him and interests him.”

Englebert said Hartsville’s airport is vital to the economy and should be celebrated.

“This airport has been here forever and a day,” he said. “This airport brings in commerce and brings people to the city. This is a great facility for businesses to facilitate their needs.”

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I cover Darlington, Hartsville, and Lake City local government, school board, and community endeavors.

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