In 1967, Carl Hoffman, a Delta pilot, along with his wife, Eva, purchased a total of 276 acres covered in peach trees and timber in Pike County for a grand total of $45,000, or $163 per acre. Their goal was to build an airstrip where the family could fly and store their planes and possibly rent out hangar space to other pilots. Together, with Carl’s dad, affectionately known as Dado, and their three children, Ross, Carla, and Jill, the family worked with friends and the occasional hired hand to run water and electricity, build their four-room concrete block home with an attached hangar, and clear peach trees for a landing strip. The family would eventually call the small airport, “Antique Acres.”
In 1968, Carl flew to Cincinnati to purchase his Aeronca, which he flew home and landed on the newly completed strip for the first time. Once the landing strip was completed, the family constructed hangars from old tin taken off of barns that area farmers were replacing or no longer needed. A neighbor, Tommy Johnson, ran a concrete business and would pour extra concrete leftover from jobs in the hangars for the concrete floors. Johnson also aided in seeding and fertilizing the grass airstrip.
By 1969, the Hoffmans were generating income from the hangar rentals, and Carl gave flying lessons using the Aeronca. Ever the visionary, Carl became interested in flying gliders and believed that antique airplanes and a glider school could grow the family’s burgeoning aviation business, so he completed an instructor’s level course at a glider school outside Charlotte, N.C., and opened up a glider school at Antique Acres. Eventually, the airport would have two to three trainers and three 1-26 single seat gliders. The airport acquired a Cessna 150 with a souped-up engine for the tow plane in addition to the Aeronca, which was used as a tow plane as well.
Soon, another personal favor from a friend with connections to a decision-maker at Standard Oil in Atlanta resulted in the airport finally getting a fuel farm where gas was initially sold for 37 cents a gallon.
In 1973, Carl and Eva Hoffman sold the airport operations but later re-acquired the airfield when the buyer encountered financial problems. He sold Antique Acres permanently a short time later.
In 1979, Bobby Tisdale bought the airport and owned it until 1990, when it was sold to Lynford and Brenda Sullivan. David Harwell purchased Peach State Airport in 1994 and owned it until 2005 when he sold the airport to Ron Alexander.
Much like Carl Hoffman, Ron Alexander was a visionary who had big plans for what was then called Peach State Airport into a vintage aerodrome reminiscent of the original Atlanta airport, Candler Field. Alexander, a Vietnam veteran and retired Delta pilot, built the vintage-style American Airways hangar, established the Youth Aviation Program, and moved Barnstormer’s Grill & Event Center to its current location in 2008.
Sadly, in 2016, Ron Alexander passed away unexpectedly. Ron’s family, the Barnstormer’s Grill team, the Candler Field Youth Aviation Program, and many others worked to keep the aerodrome going in Ron’s absence until the spring of 2018 when Keven and Linda Sasser purchased Peach State Aerodrome and Barnstormer’s Grill from the Alexander family. Keven was a friend of Ron and the two spent many hours together discussing Ron’s dreams and future plans for the airport and restaurant.
For Keven Sasser, who has spent his career owning and developing businesses, his longtime hobby as a private pilot will now become his full-time focus. The Sassers’ preliminary plans for Peach State Aerodrome include continuing the development of the vintage-themed airport, adding new hangars, building “hangarminiums,” and continuing to support the Candler Field Youth Aviation Program. Teaching local youth how to build, maintain, and fly airplanes is a particular passion for the Sassers, and they are eager to expand the unique program that Ron pioneered.
The Sassers look forward to this new season at Peach State Aerodrome and Barnstormer’s Grill and Event Center as they work to grow the family-friendly destination restaurant, develop a first-class event center, and continue to build a vibrant airport community where aviation enthusiasts young and old can live, play, and fly.