After 24 years of flight operations from Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Kissimmee, Florida, Warbird Adventures recently announced that they will be moving their business to a new location in Ninety Six, South Carolina. They chose this little town because of its geographical location, excellent year-round weather and relatively uncontested airspace.
“We’ve always had the desire of having our own little cross strip in the country. So, we’re finally going to pull the trigger and make that happen. We found a fantastic little property up in South Carolina, which is now centrally located on the east coast, both for air show work and also for our clients to reach us. So, it’s a very accessible place, good weather. We can fly year-round, just like we do here in Florida.” said Thom Richard, owner and Chief Pilot of Warbird Adventures.
While Ninety Six is a very small town, it has a lot of history, which includes being the site of the first American Revolutionary land battle South of New England. It is also famous for its Star Fort, the National Ninety Six Historic Site, which contains the only known surviving military tunnels dating from the American Revolutionary War.
Thom Richard noted: “It’s a private strip out in the country – it’s just us! It’s a less populated area with a less crowded airspace; it’s ideal for training. We’ll have accommodations on the property, so it’s going to be very welcoming for our customers. We’ll have a couple of hangars on the property, a house, but we’re going to expand. This is not a downsizing move for Warbirds Adventures, but rather it is an opportunity to expand. ”
At the new location, Warbird Adventures will display some of the artifacts and exhibits currently on view at their present location in Florida. They are not going to charge entry admission, because the new site is not in a populated area. So while it won’t be a museum nor advertised as such, they will still have a lot of interesting things for people to see. Visitors will be welcome to walk around, although there will be a voluntary donation box at the entry point. As they noted, “If people want to contribute, then that’s fantastic, but we are going to concentrate on the flying portion of things, and that’s also what we’re going to be expanding.”
In the last few years, T-6 conversation training and tail wheel endorsement were core business components for Warbird Adventures however, with the move to the new location, Thom Richard plans to offer a full pilot training program. “We’ve done that for a while; we just haven’t hit it very hard. So, what’s unusual about us is that we do primary training in a tail dragger, as we only operate vintage aircraft that are 40 years or older. So, you can get your private pilot’s license in the Citabria, and you can obtain your aerobatic training in a Super Decathlon, then you get your advanced training in the T-6 and all the way up to the type rating. The only training that we do not offer at the moment is the instrument rating, but we may be able to do that in the future.”
As some may remember, Warbird Adventures had humble beginnings, offering T-6 Flight Experiences out of a kiosk at Tom Reilly’s famous Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum. However, after Hurricane Charlie forced Tom Reilly to relocate his business to Douglas, Georgia in 2004, Thom and Graham built a new facility for their Kissimmee Air Museum and a shelter hangar to house their prized T-6’s. But ever since Thom acquired Graham’s share of the business, his primary personal mission for Warbird Adventures is to run the administrative and executive aspects of the business while he teaches 5 and 10 hour T-6 familiarization and checkout courses to experienced pilots. Furthermore, he often flies the second aircraft for the two-ship formation Flight Experiences offered to anyone who wants to realize their dream of flying the T-6 in formation with another example. And of course, the organization’s pride and joy, their magnificent, two-seat, dual-control Curtiss P-40 Warhawk will also be a part of the proceedings at Warbird Aventures’ new home in Ninety Six! Stay tuned for further announcements in the near future.
We wish Thom Richard and his team all the best for a new and exciting chapter in Warbird Adventures’ history. For more information about Warbird Adventures, please visit www.warbirdadventures.com or follow their Facebook page.