Already a member? Please login below for an enhanced experience. Not a member? Join today

Taunton pilots raise funds, save a runwayTaunton pilots raise funds, save a runway

Nothing enhances safety of takeoffs and landings on a windy day like the availability of a runway that cuts down the crosswind component. So when pilots at Massachusetts’ historic Taunton Municipal Airport/King Field learned that the approach path to the airport’s shorter gravel-and-turf runway had become obstructed by trees—and that airport officials had set a deadline for solving the problem without public funds or closing the runway—they swung into action.

Newly cut trees beyond the end of a gravel runway at the Taunton Municipal - King Field airport in Taunton, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Mike Dupont.

Two years on and following an online fundraising campaign, the Taunton Pilots Association is celebrating success, having mustered the resources to clear obstacles on several wooded acres northeast of the 1900-foot-by-60-foot Runway 4/22. The airport’s main runway is the paved, 3,500-foot-long Runway 12/30.

“What a relief,” said Melinda Paine-Dupont, president of the Taunton Pilots Association, a nonprofit organization that directed the runway’s rescue, when the work was mostly completed in early December.

The group had between November and the end of winter 2017 to get the trees down. Completing the work was made possible by a GoFundMe campaign that raised approximately $35,000 to pay contractors and finance any necessary environmental remediation.

Before the obstacle removal work could start, the group had worked to obtain permission from two owners of the property in the protected area for the runway. The plans had to pass muster with conservation monitors tracking a variety of concerns from wetlands to wildlife.

Sean Collins, AOPA eastern regional manager, credited the users of the airport south of Boston’s Class B airspace, where the mix of based aircraft includes classics and numerous conventional-geared airplanes, with carrying out “a big undertaking.”

“As any tailwheel or light-aircraft pilot knows, having a crosswind runway can be a lifesaver,” he said. “At Taunton, the summer prevailing winds favor Runway 4/22. Pilots based at Taunton and those who fly in from surrounding airports count on this runway for safe recreational flying and training.”

Paine-Dupont, whose pilot family flies a Piper Cub, a Cessna 140, and other aircraft, agreed, noting that the gravel runway is used daily.

Her husband, Mike Dupont, an award-winning aircraft mechanic who operates American Aero Services at Taunton, sometimes flies a classic Stearman biplane that benefits from both the crosswind runway’s magnetic bearing and its natural surface that is less resistant to tire loads than pavement. Dupont also is AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer at Taunton Municipal, which was founded in 1919 by a pilot named Henry King.

With its main mission accomplished, the Taunton Pilots Association has no plans to stop working “to promote aviation in Taunton and the surrounding communities,” as its motto proclaims. The group plans to build on efforts such as the 60 introductory flights given to youngsters under the EAA Young Eagles program, Paine-Dupont said.

Although the pilot association has found itself in a “somewhat contentious” relationship with the airport commission, “that might be starting to change” now that the nonprofit organization has risen to its challenge of saving the crosswind runway.

“They did thank us at the last commission meeting,” she 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, Pilots

Related Articles