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Pilots speak up to save a Maine airportPilots speak up to save a Maine airport

The central Maine town of Dover-Foxcroft has shelved a plan to close the community airport to construct a solar-power generating facility on the property following a strong turnout by airport supporters at a public hearing.

Pilots speak up to save a Maine airport. Photo by Sean Collins.

Instead, the town’s board of selectmen said it would revisit alternative sites for the project it is considering with alternative-energy contractor ReVision Energy.

AOPA reported November 7 that the town’s decision to draft a lease agreement for the ReVision venture based on the town manager’s opinion that it would be “a fairly straightforward process to close the airport” had galvanized local aviation advocates.

Several dozen pilots flew aircraft to town for a November 10 show-of-support fly-in.

Next, on a cold, icy November 12 evening, pilots and other residents spoke up for rural aviation for more than an hour at the hearing, urging officials to maintain the airport as a local asset and tourism gateway, and to honor the memory of Charles A. Chase Jr., for whom the airport is named.

Members of Chase’s family told the hearing that he was a local pilot who died in a 1959 accident, after which the family deeded the airport property to the town to honor his memory, according to a newspaper report. Other airport supporters said their piece to protect the airport in emails sent from within Maine and around the country, according to the article in the Piscataquis Observer.

Sean Collins, AOPA’s eastern region manager and a Maine resident, attended the meeting and pledged to help Kole Stevens, who was named the interim airport manager, establish an airport advisory committee. Glen Larson, AOPA’s new Airport Support Network volunteer at Chase Memorial and a retired military pilot, also weighed in during the session.

Poignant testimony came from Chase family members, Collins said, as well as another speaker who said she would feel “devastated” if a town board voted to close an airport named in memory of a loved one.

In a broader context, the state’s political climate may have fueled skepticism about the solar-power proposal at a time when a major electric utility’s unrelated effort to build a 145-mile electric-power transmission corridor “through the heart of Maine” has generated heated debate, while the utility, Central Maine Power, remains under fire in a widespread dispute about its billing system, Collins said.

No one spoke in favor of closing the airport including the one outspoken supporter of the solar project.

“He was the only vocal supporter of the project in general, apart from board members,” Collins said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, Airport

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