Flying Destination: The Pik-N-Pig Restaurant, Carthage, NC
Airport: Gilliam-McConnell Airfield – 5NC3 coordinates: N35-20-366 W079-26-204
SDZ (VOR) 111.8 10.6 miles 049 Radial
Activities: Enjoy a BBQ lunch or dinner while you watch airplanes
Comments: This unique place is simply something you must experience
If Pigs could fly they’d likely head out for that fabled $100 hamburger. But pilots in the south revere southern style pork BBQ so what could be better than flying in for a classic BBQ meal? Not much!
You are in luck. You are invited to fly to and land at a private strip for a great barbecue meal in central North Carolina. If you don’t believe me, and want to make sure you have permission to land, simply call the number you find on Airnav.com for Gilliam-McConnell Airfield and you’ll hear Roland Gilliam on the answering machine say, “If you are calling for permission to land, you got it. Come on!”
You won’t likely find 5NC3 in your GPS database but no worries…just plug in the coordinates or if you are still using those ancient VOR things, you’ll find the field 10.6 miles north east of SDZ on the 049 radial.
You won’t find any tall fences or security systems. Landing at Gilliam-McConnell field is like going back in time…back to a time when things were simple and you could just land in the field next to the restaurant and stop in for a bite. Well the strip is a smooth level paved affair 2538 feet long and the restaurant sits mid field not more than 100 ft off the center line. Twin engine craft base at the field and the owner says the odd King Air has dropped in on occasion, so most of our GlassPilot types will slip in with room to spare.
I had heard through the grapevine about this place last year and made a point to check it out last fall. Boy what a thrill. On this particular day I was making the point of taking my good friend, aviation mentor and instructor, Steve Merritt in for dinner. Our mission this day was to practice commercial pilot maneuvers, but the real purpose of course was to treat Steve to the unique experience of Gilliam Field and the Pik-N-Pig. For once, it was something I’d experienced in aviation that he had not yet enjoyed…(a first I think).
After a half dozen lazy eights we landed about 7:00 PM on a cool late summer evening. It was a perfect flying day and we pulled off at the turn off with ease. Dinner at the Pik-N-Pig was in full swing as the entire patio watched our landing. We pulled off in the grass and strolled over. The place was packed inside and out and we timed it perfect for an outdoor table on the patio. Several diners came over to comment on our pretty landing and ask about our sparkly new Diamond aircraft.
I ordered up the pulled pork plate with green beans and black-eyed peas. Steve selected the special, a “Pork Sundae“. You’ll have to go to just see it for yourself. All the meat is slow cooked on hickory wood fired grills so the flavor is just right. If its ribs you like you’ll find some of the largest I’ve ever seen.
I snapped a few pictures and ended up chatting with Roland Gilliam the owner and builder of the airport. Roland joined us for a while to chat about the airport and of course airplanes. He had just been flying his sailplane that day and had been up for 4 hours.
We enjoyed hearing about his aircraft projects, towing banners, the construction business and stories about flying to the Bahamas. We shared about our involvement in the Bahamas Habitat (www.bahamashabitat.org) and invited Roland to join us for the next Fly-In and Help Out Event to help with the construction projects there. Roland lit up and said, “I might just join you fellas…that sounds like a good thing.”
Roland said he paved the strip on election day in 1996. Now he has a gift shop as part of the restaurant. As he describes it…”I’ve got a lot of items for the ladies and a few for the pilots too.” I saw lots of flying pigs among the memorabilia.
But there is more! When you come, bring your golf clubs. Yes, there is a driving range right beside the restaurant that operates on the honor system of $3 a bucket. 5NC3 is only 7 miles from Southern Pines Airport (KSOP Moore County) so if you want to make it part of a golf weekend you are off to a great start.
What more could you ask for…a great meal, a bucket of balls and a fun flight to a new unique destination with something for the whole family where everyone is friendly and glad you flew in.
As the sun set, the patio was full of families relaxing and enjoying the evening. Two young boys were throwing balsa airplanes in the grass just off the patio and the scene was just perfect or as Steve would say, “Outstanding!” We did not want to leave but pulled ourselves away as a family with four kids was hanging on the split rail fence waiting to watch us take off. That’s what I call classic…taking your kids out to dinner so they can watch airplanes.
The more I fly these modern composite magic carpets with their amazing G1000 synthetic vision wonders, the more I seem to appreciate how far aviation has come. In no way does it lessen my love and interest in the full nostalgia of aviation’s past but only makes me realize how special it all is. Men like Roland Gilliam stand large by expressing their love for flying in these tangible ways that can have a great impact on us all. A trip to Gilliam-McConnell Airfield is simply a must to experience. Thank you Roland!
So, whether you fly in for lunch or make it a date and bring your wife or girl fiend for a special dinner, or bring the kids and have them experience something they will remember, remember to tell Roland we sent you!