I struggled with writing about this for quite some time… But I think it is a worthy story to tell… One of my only guidelines for this site is to stay pro-aviation. Unfortunately though, not everything in aviation is bright sun shine and calm winds. Sometimes sad or disappointing things happen.
I traveled “home” to Massachusetts for the Christmas holiday and while I was there I spent sometime visiting some of my familiar haunts. One of these was the Mansfield Municipal Airport, a place where I grew up and learned the ropes of aviation. This was my first time back in a year and a great deal has happened there since my last visit.
The “white house” administration/flight school/FBO building and famed green hanagar are gone and in their place is a beautiful state-of-the-art terminal building. While the new building was badly needed, the airport complexion is completely different. For the better, sure, but as the landscape has changed, the place where I made so many memories is gone.
The extent of the change runs deeper too, the flight school there where I went from student pilot teenager to flight instructor and assistant airport manager has closed over the past year. It’s been a few years since I was working there, but again, I spent so much of my time during college and grad school there, it’s like losing an old friend.
Of course, as with anything in life, when the old goes, new tends to come. It’s good to know Bob is still there as the Airport Manager, keeping the fuel flowing and the terminal building open. Mansfield Landings/NexAir is building beautiful new hangars at the airport too, its great to see investment in the facility! Since my last visit a new airfield camera security system has been installed and an extensive tree clearing project was completed.
There is a lot of opportunity at the community-friendly airport too. The new building has space ready to go for an airport restaurant, which once it’s up and running will attract pilots from all over the northeast portion of the country! Work continues to bring in a new flight school and make Mansfield a place for people to do what I did there, get into aviation, learn to fly and pursue a passion!
While the good ole 1B9 I knew might be no more, Mansfield Municiapl Airport is still there, going strong with support moving into the futrue.
Some things never change… I planned to me my old friend, flight instructor mentor and ReviewBforeFlight writer Jim Quinn early on December 26th to catch up. While I walked into a new, modern building, Jim greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile. We shared stories and caught up, lamenting about the loss of the flight school and so much airport activity. The conversation was good and brought me back to the ‘old days’ of sitting around the table in the old FBO building talking with friends.
My good friend, former student Peter Ofner arrived soon after and we began preflight preparations. Jim readied his Archer, Peter and I (but mostly Peter) prepared Peter’s Cherokee 180. We flew over to Plymouth and had lunch and coffee at Plane Jane’s, again exchanging stories and discussing all the things pilots do around airports. Just before takeoff, walking through the new building one more time I ran into Mitch Roberts, another ReviewBeforeFlighter, who himself was going flying with another old friend, Dave, in his Cherokee 6. It’s funny how the airport brings folks together. I hadn’t seen Mitch in some time and running into him was unexpected but one of the cool things about visiting my old aviation home.
After lunch Peter and I took off and flew south to New Bedford, Jim followed us with his departure and headed for Norwood to do a landing over there. Once at New Bedford, I made three landings to get current, impressed with myself a little more each time. It was good to see the completed Taxiway Alpha, which was a project I worked on before leaving New Bedford in 2015. After I finished my landings and the visit to my old stomping grounds, Peter and I flew North back towards Mansfield, making a circle around my parents house (at a safe altitude). The landing in Mansfield was on Runway 14 and the narrower, shorter runway was evident and made me think, runway dimensions would be a good blog post in this space, so stay tuned…
By the time Peter and I taxied back I his hangar, Jim was closing the doors to his hangar, right next to Peter’s hangar, Jim helped us push the plane back and close up the hangar. After a brief discussion we decided it was time to get out of the cold so we planned a time to meet a few days later for another flight and each headed for home.
As I sat in the parking lot ready to leave I reflected on the differences in the facility, the changes int he landscape are substantial, but the friendships I have made through flying are the real benefit, and my airport family may be wider and further apart but I know that we each share the memories of flying together and that’s pretty cool.
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9