“The whole idea with our fly-in Airbnb A-frame cabin is that a general aviation pilot who wants to vacation in Maine, they want to get away from the city, this is a direct flight to relaxation. And once they are there, they are going to have all of the amenities that they need, including a courtesy vehicle. That way, they can go and access the lakes, rivers, the grocery store, or a restaurant for dinner,” advertised Mitch Groder, the proprietor of Beaver Creek (51ME) in Chesterville, Maine.
A 2,300-foot-long grass runway and the adjacent lodging project is a product of the commercial pilot’s reentry into general aviation several years ago and his childhood upbringing in the Pine Tree State.
“I grew up in Maine, and I just absolutely love it there, especially in the summer. I love the lakes region, which is where this land is located. I wanted to be able to find a way to fly directly there and start relaxing right away, without taking a 10-hour drive from Philadelphia where I live. Guests will love the cool Maine summer nights and clean, crisp air,” Groder said.
The runway at 51ME is surrounded by a nearly endless number of pine trees. [Courtesy: Beaver Creek Maine]
“A few years ago, I had bought a Cessna 182 and realized that it could really open some doors for my family and me. Since I got back into GA, I just realized that when you have an airplane, you want to utilize it to fly to unique places. One of the logistical challenges that I had found was, sure you can go land at any airport—but then you have to figure out the Uber to take all of your bags to a hotel or an Airbnb. For me, I started to think ‘how cool would it be to just taxi right up to a cabin, pull the mixture, unpack your bags, and then you’re there. There’s no extra work. Then you get to sit on the deck of this A-Frame cabin and look at your airplane, which every pilot loves. That part is going to be a special experience.”
“So, I bought the 80 acres up in Maine, which is about a two-and-a-half-hour flight with no wind from where I live, and started with construction of the runway in July. And after I created the runway, I thought to myself, ‘How can I share this with others when we are not utilizing it?’”
Those who can experience this part of the country during any time of year are in for a treat, the project’s website confidently expresses.
“The location can’t be beat. Beaver Creek’s 80 acres are situated within five minutes of three beautiful Maine lakes and ponds. Water in this area is known to be exceptionally clean—excellent for kayaking, swimming, fishing, and exploring the islands of these lakes. Thirty minutes west offers exceptional hiking in the Western Maine Mountains. Mount Blue (3,192 feet msl), Tumbledown (mountain lake at summit) and Bald Mountain are great hiking options.”
The runway is located at 44°30’14.2″ N / 70°04’18.4″ W, which is 16 nm NW of the AUG VOR (Augusta Maine VOR) on the 330-degree radial. [Courtesy: Nathan Hurd]
The resource continues, “The Kennebec Land Trust Parker Preserve Headland Loop Trail is eight minutes away, offering outstanding views of Parker Pond. Acadia National Park is a 30-minute flight east, making Beaver Creek an excellent basecamp for your trip to experience the natural beauty of Acadia on the Maine Coast.”
The natural beauty of the area, as well as the recreational opportunities that are available there, are expected to be big draws for vacationing pilots. The project is a way for Groder to capitalize on interest from the flying community with an offering type that doesn’t presently exist in the area.
Progress has been good on the project thus far, and Groder expects the first guests to arrive in June of this year when the cabin is scheduled to be completed. Before any of the fabrication began, the runway was carved from the dense forest that covers the property’s acreage.
“At first, I was a little naive, thinking I could buy a tractor, start cutting down trees, and build the runway myself. I quickly realized that I needed heavy equipment and found an excellent excavation company that started clearing all of the trees. The one unexpected thing that we ran into is that there were millions of rocks, so we had to do a lot of sifting and moving of rocks. The excavation company worked on the runway from July to September and it was a process with an excavator, a bulldozer, a tractor, and a skid steer,” he explained.
“It was definitely more of a challenge making this runway, with all of the trees. But that’s what makes this property so special. It’s all wooded, so it’s not like you are landing in a big farmer’s field—which doesn’t have the same feel as ‘Hey, I just landed in the woods and now I’m surrounded by trees.’ The clearway between the trees is about 100 feet wide and then there are drainage ditches on both sides. The actual landing width is between 70 to 80 feet wide, the whole way down, and the runway is 2,300 feet long. The FAA sent me the official paperwork for the airport, with an identifier of 51ME, and we just made the sectional!”
Since the runway surface was not completed in time for grass seeding in the fall of 2022, Groder has some turf work ahead of him this spring. But he has already begun spreading the word about one of the newest runways in the Northeast.
“Several months ago, I put a post in one of the pilot Facebook groups, just talking about how we were planning on building a cabin on this airstrip in the Maine wilderness. I said that it was going to be off-grid, with heat, air conditioning and all of that, as well as have a wood-fired hot tub outside,” he recalled.
Mitch Groder and his family, in front of their Cessna 182 [Courtesy: Nick Onkow]
“In that post I also asked who would be interested in renting this cabin and I was amazed at the feedback. There were 200 or 300 comments like, ‘Absolutely, I’ll rent that’ or, ‘This is awesome!’ So that really got my gears turning and we started brainstorming to figure out what kind of cabin that we want to do. Finally, my wife and I decided on this really unique looking 24-foot by 36-foot two-bed, one-bath solar-powered off-grid A-frame cabin. Then we started searching for a builder and I found an awesome one who broke ground on the cabin in October. It’s about 70 to 80 percent done right now. We could not have done it without the help of the contractors, family involvement, and we are lucky to have found a property manager that is on top of everything. He is amazing.”
Groder is looking forward to enjoying the tranquility of the site with friends and family. But the prospect of others doing the same is equally rewarding for him. With that noted, he plans to add a number of private campsites (complete with tents and other amenities “that you don’t want to have to pack in your airplane”). He is also brainstorming to provide a grocery service for pilots for a pre-set fee. The cabin’s property manager will do grocery shopping for those staying there and have it ready in the cabin before they land.
“I’m really excited about this project, as well as the number of people that are interested in coming to Maine and enjoying the natural beauty. Not only that, but the community aspect of this project is also especially exciting to me and I’m looking forward to getting to know the people that fly in. Since the property is so large, pilots camping would be very spread out but still get the chance to meet and socialize with other pilots if they choose.”
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