10/24/04 — Flying high over Grantham

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Flying high over Grantham

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 24, 2004 2:08 AM

GRANTHAM -- George Moore climbs into the seat behind pilot Charles Stackhouse.

"Charles was my flight instructor last year," says Moore as they cinch into the seat belts of the Cessna 182 that Stackhouse owns with his partner, Ronnie Griffin, a brigadier general in the National Guard.

The flyers plug in the headsets and adjust the volume. They pull the microphones close to their mouths and talk into them.

The Cessna rolls along the 2,800-foot-long grass landing strip at Cox-Grantham Airfield on U.S. 13, west of Grantham. It's one of three grass landing strips in the community the flyers call "Grantham International."

"We don't do aerobatics in this airplane," says Stackhouse as he taxies toward some trees. How fast? "According to FAA regulations, we can go no faster than a brisk walk.

"That was a very brisk walk," he says, turning the Cessna around at the end of the runway. "Y'all set?"

"Let's go," says Moore.

The Cessna heads toward U.S. 13, lifting-off at about 60 miles per hour. The club house and the highway grow smaller.

Every Thursday you'll see them, about 15 members of the Grantham Aero Club. On their outings, they meet, eat and fly -- not necessarily in that order.

Every first Thursday, they hold a club meeting. Some of them have built their own planes and also build planes for others.

During the next N.C. Pickle Festival at Mount Olive, the club members are planning to give rides to children. The club has 29 members and 14 airplanes. It's been around since the mid 1980s.

The meetings are always preceded by a "feed." Some members cook at the club house. Some bring things their wives made. Some bring something from a restaurant.

The club recently became an Experimental Aircraft Association chapter and has a second name, the Billy Talton Chapter of the EAA, No. 1386.

It's named after the elder of the club. He's 79.

Billy Talton has an airplane he built from plans drawn by Ray Stits of California. The airplane is called Stits Sky Coup.

George Moore has the only ultralight at the airfield. It's a Beaver RX28 one-seater. Two other members, Glenn Elam and Shane Kilpatrick, have Imax ultralights that they keep at Kilpatrick's home nearby.

"There's Grantham School," says Stackhouse as he banks the Cessna toward Kilpatrick's farm.

"Shane wants us to stay away from the turkey houses," says Moore as Stackhouse lines up the Cessna with Kilpatrick's air strip. The Cessna is too large to land there, and he dips the Cessna down a bit, then back up.

"My dad built power lines, and I flew incidental to the business," says Stackhouse. "He sold the business, and I fly mostly for pleasure now."

A Citabria owned by Marc Hull and Wiley Pender has taken off, too, and flies along side the Cessna for a while.

The Citabria will go 125 miles per hour cruising. An ultralight will cruise at about 65 mph.

The Cessna floats back onto the Cox-Grantham Airfield.

Inside the club house is a framed pilot's license signed by Orville Wright and dated April 6, 1926. The license belonged to Alton Stewart, father of Hal Stewart of Goldsboro.

Darrell Ham has an RV7 that he built from a kit. The club members say the kits are more popular today than those that have been manufactured.

Next to the RV7 is another airplane built from a kit. Ham says he and Bob Ross have finished it for a man in West Virginia. He says it came to them mostly finished, but it had never been flown.

"I've got about 12 or 15 hours on it," says Ham.

Bob Woods, who owns Woods Aviation at the Goldsboro Municipal Airport, has a "Woody Pusher," an airplane his father designed and built. He says it's named that way because his name is Woods, and the propeller is on the back of the wing. It pushes the airplane rather than pulling it.

Just before dark, Kilpatrick arrives on his

"When you can't fly the plane, you still get wind in your hair -- sort of," says Kilpatrick.

"He's going to fly anyway," says Kilpatrick as Moore takes to the air in his ultralight for one more flight before dark, the "feed" and the meeting.