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Happy place

An airfield where flying dreams come true

From a lawn chair under the hangar door, John Williamson looks out over his creation.

Massey Aerodrome

  • Massey Aerodrome
    Photography by Edwin Remsberg
  • Massey Aerodrome
    The mission of the Massey Aerodrome, as outlined by its founders John Williamson and the late Jim Douglass, Jim Sypherd, and Bill Malpass...
  • Massey Aerodrome
    ...is “to preserve for public enjoyment and education the history of small-town grassroots aviation in the United States.”
  • Massey Aerodrome
    John Williamson is one of the founders.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    The field hosts the Potomac Antique Aero Squadron’s annual fly-in each June, welcoming aircraft and pilots who fly in to share camaradarie and to compete for PAAS recognition and the informal Massey Choice Award, which was won this year by New Jersey pilot Kurt Grasso’s GrassoCat, a highly modified G–164 Ag Cat.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    Some 53 aircraft flew in for the June 2021 event, as well as lots of drive-in guests. Volunteer William “Doc” Dougherty said the event has previously brought in as many as 175 aircraft if the weather is good. This year’s event started with questionable weather in the morning and many visitors elected to drive in, which Dougherty said he attributes to a “pent-up demand” after the event was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensive library in the museum is filled with donated books, videos, movies, and more.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    Andrew King, formerly of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York, now owner of Bald River Aviation in Culpeper, Virginia, flew in the oldest aircraft at the event, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 1930 Brunner-Winkle Bird BK biplane, restored by Joseph and Anna Fichera (right).
  • Massey Aerodrome
    John Chritea of Delaware flew in with his daughter in his new-to-him Ercoupe he dubbed Fancy Pants. Chritea donated another one of his Ercoupes, which is on display inside the Massey Museum.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    The 1937 DC–3A that greets visitors at the entrance to the Massey Aerodrome was once flown by United Airlines but was retired and painted in military colors to be a part of a restaurant in New Castle, Delaware. It was donated to Massey Aerodrome in 2006.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    The original interior and cockpit are open to visitors, as is an Antonov An–2 housed in one of two hangars on the site.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    Volunteer Bill Dilling is one of a cadre of volunteers who keep the airfield going.
  • Massey Aerodrome
    Photographer Edwin Remsberg’s 1991 Pietenpol Air Camper has Piper Cub wings and won the best custombuilt aircraft in the PAAS competition in 2019. The 2021 PAAS President’s award-winner was Sarah Rovner’s Super Cub Patches.

Part of a group of four friends who summered on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the early 2000s, he and his compatriots carved a 3,000-foot-long grass runway out of a 93-acre parcel of farmland. The others are gone now, but Williamson has five new partners and their desire to share “grassroots” aviation has never wavered.

“Grass was all we wanted,” Williamson said. “The idea was an old-time airport, and it just grew from there.”

On a warm summer day in June, the Massey Aerodrome (MD1) hosted the forty-ninth annual Potomac Antique Aero Squadron (PAAS) chapter of the Antique Airplane Association’s Antique Fly-In. Since 2016, the squadron has hosted its event here (it was originally the Horn Point Fly-In), but in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on that, and now President Joe Biden’s visits to his Wilmington, Delaware, home have created pop-up temporary flight restrictions that can often make it impossible for visiting pilots to fly in (see sidebar). A little opening in the clouds came for the June event when Biden was out of the country for the U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva. The fly-in could go on.

In addition to opening the airfield to the fly-in and welcoming visiting pilots, Massey Aerodrome has its own museum, a Douglas DC–3A, a replica 1911 Wright glider, a 1946 Ercoupe, and an Antonov An–2. There’s an antique windmill on the site and a rotating beacon tower. Pilot Nick Mirales offers weekend rides in a 1944 open-cockpit Stearman trainer, and glider rides are also available. Its founders wanted the airfield to have an “old-time” feel and be a place where aviation geeks could feel right at home, no matter their age. They succeeded.

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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