By JAMES E. ELLIS
Minute Man Air Field is a thriving general aviation airport about 25 miles west-northwest of Boston, mostly in Stow, Massachusetts. Owned by Don and Nancy McPherson, the airport has always tried to be open and inviting to the public.
It starts with Nancy’s Airfield Café, an airport restaurant run by Nancy McPherson that has been rated in some aviation magazines as one of the top 10 airport restaurants in the country.
Pilots flying in often have to wait in line for breakfast or lunch because it is that popular with locals. Almost every table has a view of the runway.
While airport security demands locked gates with keypads for pilot access, there are a couple of picnic tables just behind the fence near the main gate inviting people to stay a while and watch the airplanes.
Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 196 regularly flies Young Eagles every second Saturday of the month (weather permitting) from April to October. Over more than 20 years, chapter members have flown more than 3,400 Young Eagles. Nels Anderson is the pilot with the most flights, presently shown on the EAA Young Eagles Logbook with 594.
The flights are very popular with people throughout the local area. Most flights are conducted in vintage factory-built Cessnas, Pipers, and Beechcraft, with Mike Smith the “token homebuilder” in EAA Chapter 196. He flies Young Eagles one-at-a-time in his Sonex.
October 2017 saw Minute Man go to new heights with its efforts to be community friendly.
An Open House was held Oct. 14 that included guided tours of the airport, including visits to the Aptis flight school and aircraft maintenance facilities.
By coincidence, about seven ultralights from the grass strip at nearby Crow Island flew in for breakfast, adding to the aircraft on display and making for quite a show when they left as a group.
Also from Crow Island was Jack Buckley, displaying a collection of large RC models, including highly authentic replicas of the P-51 Mustang and the B-25 Mitchell.
National Aviation Academy (NAA), a major Northeastern school for aviation mechanics, had displays and was open for a tour of its on-field aircraft maintenance school lab and workshop facilities at Minute Man.
The most unusual event of the day was the “5K Run the Runway.”
The runway was NOTAMed closed from noon to 2:30 pm, and runners were invited to run a 5K course that included the Minute Man runway and taxiway. More than 30 adult runners, plus five kids running a shorter course, participated in the event.
There was an entry fee, and proceeds were given to the Stow and Boxborough Conservation Trusts. Following the event, Don McPherson more than matched entry fee proceeds with a donation of more than $1,000, and each of the Conservation Trusts received a donation of $1,000.
Prior to the run, there was a ribbon-cutting event with local and state officials to formally open the newly paved ramps and taxiways at Minute Man.
Over a three-year period, with substantial funding from the Massachusetts DOT Aeronautics Division, each half of the runway and finally the ramps and taxiway were fully paved and refurbished. The ribbon cutting commemorated the end of the revitalization process.
Flying both before and after the “Run the Runway” event, EAA Chapter 196 pilots flew 37 Young Eagles.
To add even more to the community outreach efforts, on Saturday, Oct. 21, EAA Chapter 196 brought in 26 kids from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Massachusetts organization, along with their 26 big brothers or sisters.
They were provided with a short tour of the airport ramp area and a ground school covering the basics of aerodynamics, aircraft controls and instruments, airports, general aviation, training, licensing, and careers. An aircraft owner pilot showed the group a preflight inspection, and all the kids got Young Eagles rides. EAA Chapter 196 even provided a free lunch.