A Visit to the Candler Field Museum
A Visit to the Candler Field Museum
A Man of Vision and Focus
Captain Ron Alexander retired from Delta Airlines and now has set his sights on replicating Candler Field (which is today Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport) as it appeared in Atlanta in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Ron flew the de Havilland Caribou in Vietnam and has displayed on the wall of his office a poem written by a fellow pilot indicating he had a premonition of his death. Like Ron, the pilot in question was flying the Caribou in Vietnam in harm’s way and eventually paid for serving his country with his life.
Ron’s mission today is to honor the memory of men and women who brought aviation to Georgia in the 1920’s and 1930’s. To that end, he has formed a non-profit corporation to educate people about the aviation history of Atlanta and to provide training to young people about the skills and qualities required to restore antique aircraft to flight status. Make no mistake, Ron Alexander intends to replicate Candler Field as it appeared in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
The Airport Setting
The Candler Field Museum is located on the Peach State Airport in Williamson, Georgia. Williamson is southwest of Griffin and is located in Pike County. The Peach State Airport is a grass strip with 2,400 feet of useable runway bordered by trees on both ends. The runway has a northwest/southeast orientation which is 310° or 130°. Landing on Runway 31 requires that one clear tall trees with the result that the threshold of Runway 31 is displaced about 600 feet. But-for the displaced threshold, the runway length would be 3,000 feet. It is also worth noting that Runway 31 runs downhill beyond the runway threshold. Conversely, Runway 13 runs uphill meaning that in a no wind situation, the preferred runway for landing is Runway 13, while the preferred runway for departure is Runway 31. The runway has a hill about 600 feet from the threshold of Runway meaning that if one is departing using the full length of Runway 31, he will not see an aircraft departing from the opposite direction. To place the aircraft at the crown of the hill means that one will lose about 600 feet of useable runway when departing from Runway 31. If that is not acceptable, then careful attention to the aircraft using the runway and a careful monitoring of the UNICOM frequency of 122.8 is essential. The field elevation of the grass strip is 926 feet and a right hand pattern is employed for Runway 13 to keep all traffic to the south of the runway.
When flying into Peach State Airport, because it is ensconced amongst trees, the most visible landmarks one will see while approaching the airport will be the hangar facility and buildings. A flight into Peach State will reacquaint one with soft field and short field take off and landing techniques.
The Barnstormer’s Grill
Aircraft tend to be congregated adjacent to the approach end of Runway 31 and for good reason. That places one in close proximity to the self-service gas pump and also a short walking distance from the Barnstormer’s Grill. The Barnstormer’s Grill is a walk back in time and is generally open Wednesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Trudy runs the restaurant and can be reached at 770-227-9989 to confirm the Barnstormer’s Grill will be open at the time of your projected arrival. The facilities are brand new and feature a good number of windows so one can look outside at the rustic setting while enjoying lunch or dinner. Lunch at the Barnstormer’s Grill is a great way to dine in the atmosphere of flying as it appeared many decades ago.
After one has enjoyed a meal at the Barnstormer’s Grill, one can exit the Grill and walk into the lobby of the hangar which is decorated and fashioned after the lobby that was situated at Candler Field back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The lobby is decorated with photographs of old aircraft and the airmen who flew them. One can just imagine passengers standing about in the lobby in the early days of aviation waiting for their aircraft to depart.
Visible from the lobby is the interior of the hangar where a number of vintage aircraft are located such as a Curtiss Robin and also a Stearman C 3MB mail plane. Both aircraft are in immaculate condition. Parked next to these vintage aircraft are period automobiles which are maintained in running condition. Also in the hangar is a Sears and Roebuck horseless carriage, a player piano, and large photographs of motion picture stars who were prominent in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Beyond the expansive hangar, there is a restoration facility where work is under way on a Curtiss Robin aircraft and also a Pietenpol Air Camper.
Besides the Stearman mail plane, there is in the inventory a Stearman YPT-9 Cloud Boy. For those of you with a keen eye for the Stearman series of aircraft, the Cloud Boy looks like just what it is, the ancestor of the PT-17/N2N-series of aircraft. The Cloud Boy was designed from the start to be a military trainer, but very few were constructed. The one in Ron’s inventory is a very rare aircraft today, since very few Cloud Boys were built and even fewer survived. Ron also regularly flies a Waco YMF-5 aircraft for purposes of giving rides.
An Expansive Facility
Besides the restaurant, the hangar housing the aircraft and the restoration facility, the hangar and its associated structures have a number of dining rooms, conference rooms, and meeting rooms. These facilities may be rented for activities or events. One treat of the facility is to walk out on the deck which is situated above the Barnstormer’s Grill and survey the aircraft looking down from above. It offers a unique vantage point on the grassy runway and surrounding structures.
Reflections on the Candler Field Museum
The Candler Field Museum is already an impressive facility housing a collection of period aircraft and automobiles. The setting is picturesque, and the hangar facility looks just like Candler Field must have appeared in the 1920’s and 1930’s. On any given Saturday or Sunday, one will find the airport and the Barnstormer’s Grill populated by pilots, many of whom, themselves, are flying antique aircraft. If one walks about the perimeter of the airport, you will see a number of treasures in the hangars including a number of PT-17 Stearman aircraft, a Bucker BU-131 Jungmann, and (apparently) a JN-4 Jenny aircraft which I was not able to see during my visit. As I recall, Ron indicated that the Jenny will be flying in the near future and will be powered by a Hispano-Suiza engine.
Anyone desiring to enjoy a pleasant afternoon in a pastoral setting populated by antique aircraft and the pilots who fly them should pay a visit to the Candler Field Museum at the Peach State Airport.