A Williston resident flew coast to coast to make a dream come true for a fellow pilot.
Dave Gardner, 62, traveled to the Chehalis-Centralia Airport, which is south of Seattle, Washington, on July 28 to pick up a 1946 Ercoupe for 91-year-old Lexington resident Jim Streeter, who was looking to get back into aviation and previously owned an Ercoupe. Gardner and Streeter are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1467 (The Treetop Flyers) in Pelion.
“This was a good opportunity to help a fellow pilot out. I wouldn’t say this type of flight is for the average pilot because it’s a lot of work and there are risks involved. You have to think things through really quick,” said Gardner, who was a flight instructor for 20 years and has logged more than 1,500 hours in general aviation.
Having previously lived many years on the west coast, Gardner spent the next three weeks visiting family and friends across the country as he journeyed back to the east coast with the plane Streeter purchased after finding it online.
After experiencing breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, he journeyed over Oregon on his way to Southern California where he spent a week in wine country to visit friends and his mother-in-law. He also saw Travis Air Force Base where he used to work.
Gardner then started his journey east over the San Jacinto Mountains and stopped in Silver City, New Mexico to visit a cousin.
“I used all my experience, patience and caution,” he said of traveling through rugged terrain, including mountains and smoke from forest fires. “The plane did really well.”
The journey continued through Texas and into Louisiana where he stopped to visit a friend. He then flew around New Orleans air space and into Alabama where he was stopped by a storm. He later landed in Sandersville, Ga. before making the final part of his trek to the Barnwell County Airport on August 20.
On August 23, Gardner delivered the plane to Streeter at the Pelion airport.
In order to truly make it a coast to coast trip, Gardner and Streeter met on August 28 to fly the plane to Johns Island in Charleston County before traveling to the Barnwell County Airport.
“It’s not every day that someone does this,” Gardner said of the 3,000-mile coast to coast trip.
Gardner is originally from Dayton, Ohio, which is the birthplace of aviation. He lived in California for 25 years but moved to Aiken before relocating to Williston with his wife Tammy about 10 years ago.
“I enjoy it here and am glad to be here enjoying a slower paced life. Barnwell County is full of good people,” said Gardner.
Though Gardner hasn’t lived in Barnwell County for most of his life, he has been familiar with the area for decades. He used to skydive at the Barnwell airport about 35 years ago and used to come through Barnwell when he was stationed in the nuclear Navy in Charleston.
He said Barnwell County is fortunate to have an airport because it’s an important component of the area’s infrastructure. “It’s a good small town community airport that is very well maintained,” said Gardner, who commends airport manager Tim Freer and other representatives for their hospitality.
In addition to 24 years of service in the military where he retired as assistant section chief of maintenance squadron, Gardner sold his leak detection business in July, which allowed him to take this trip.
Gardner is now looking forward to enjoying a slower paced lifestyle on his farm property in Williston where he raises bees while also promoting aviation to people young and old.