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Biking, hiking, and a giant frying pan

'Bikes for Pilots' effort on a roll in Maine

What’s a summer or fall excursion without a hike in the hills, a lobster lunch by the ocean, or joining the traditional celebration of a small town’s favorite breakfast food?

Maine Aeronautics Association President Lisa Reece and her husband Steve Williams bike at Maine's Bethel Regional Airport, one of the airports where bicycles have been made available to pilots. Photo courtesy of Lisa Reece.

There’s no reason to miss out on the fun now that the leader of a Maine pilots group has shifted into high gear in her effort to help pilots use their aircraft to explore fun destinations by offering a solution to the age-old logistical question: “How do we get into town from the airport?”

Sure, the airport courtesy car is a general aviation icon, and taxis and other ride services can get you into town and back to the airport—supply, demand, and schedule permitting. But if the purpose of your flight to a Maine airport is to throttle back and take in the scenery at your own pace, nothing beats a bicycle for exploring new territory and making memories.

Recognizing the challenge that the ground-transportation logistic poses for users of GA airports, as well as the attractions to which those airports serve as gateways, Lisa Reece, president of the Maine Aeronautics Association, got to work on a solution. Through her efforts and outreach, bikes have begun appearing at several Maine airports. The continuing effort has earned itself a project name, Bikes for Pilots, that you can read about on her organization’s website.

Using the airport-based bikes is a BYOH activity—that is, bring your own helmet. Otherwise, a few uncomplicated rules apply, as she explains on the website.

Program growth has been a matter of user participation—so if you know of an airport where bikes would help pilots enjoy the area (and support local businesses), let them know your thoughts. In Reece’s experience, some airports have been excited to join the program—one even gave her a bike rack to use—although the supervising authorities at one or two others have been reticent. That hasn’t fazed optimist Reece, who to date has been unwilling to cross any Maine airfield off her list.

A bike doesn’t rise to maximum ground-breaking grandeur absent a dedicated bike route to get you where you’re going, and Reece has you covered there too. 

One airport where bikes are available at the fixed-base operation is Brunswick Executive Airport, “a great place to ride where there is a bike path into town and a nice ‘loop’ ride around the golf course at the back side of the old Navy Base,” she said in an email, referring to the now-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station. Brunswick Landing, the business campus that replaced the base, features a café and food trucks. Cook's Corner to the south has food options for the hungry air-and-ground traveler. To the north, in town, look for “great food, coffee and ice cream options.”

A farmer's market takes place every Tuesday and Friday from May to November. Brunswick is also the site of historic Bowdoin College, established in 1794. Those interested in pedaling more miles can ride down a scenic peninsula to the ocean, or along the Androscoggin River bike path from downtown to Cook's Corner.

Headed for the mountains, not the coast? Whether you are a summer hiker, a winter skier, or a fall “leaf peeper,” a ride into town—and then up into the hills—may be yours from Bethel Regional Airport, where you are just a few pedal-pushes from downtown on a combination bike path and walking path. The scenery in the southwest portion of Maine, just east of the White Mountains, dazzles. Runway 14/32 is 3,818 by 75 feet, and there is self-service fuel available.

Between the sea and the slopes, in the area locals know as mid-Maine, sits Pittsfield Municipal Airport, where Reece has arranged to have a few bikes installed with cooperation from Curtis Air. Those looking for an unusual event to fly to might consider attending the Central Maine Egg Festival, a “celebration of the brown egg industry.” You missed it this year, but the egg festival is held every July in Pittsfield’s spacious, sunny Manson Park. There’s a parade and street dance, and an “early bird breakfast,” prepared on a cooking implement claimed to be “the world’s largest frying pan.”

As Reece and her husband Steve Williams enjoyed their summer—sometimes taking the rear seat out of their Cessna 185 and stowing bikes in its place—Reece remained on the case, working to bring ground transit to other Maine airports (Belfast Municipal and Lincoln Regional airports were on her lobbying list, with Lincoln in the “maybe next year” category).

She’s also looking for more bikes, so check the garage or the basement for that unrecycled cycle that might make a pilot proud to pedal from a Piper to a public park. (Reece only accepts bikes that are in good condition.)

“We also need bike racks,” she added.

A few notes for users of MAA’s Bikes for Pilots: See the organization website for information on how to access the bicycles, which are kept locked. Take a lock with you when you ride, and please lock the bikes back in place when finished riding. Helmets are not provided but are highly recommended.

“Ride responsibly and have fun,” she said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

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 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: U.S. Travel, Travel

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