It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No, It's...
Aloft and at The Post Mills Airport!
A small airport, and there are plenty who love it madly!
Stretching out against a backdrop of two, long grass-strip runways in early Spring, situated on the western edge of Thetford, VT, the Post Mills Airport brings back long-lost memories of small, local airports from long ago. It also houses a fascinating private museum of art and artifacts within which you can easily get lost on two floors of curiosities and antiquities that harbor stories from current aerial activities to those long past. It's all housed in a monstrous barn of about 18,000 sg. ft. in size that stretches on and on until you bump into floor-to-ceiling-height glass windows that face out directly at a wind sock and the two grass landing strips that see plenty of activity all year long.
In winter or in summer, nonstop aerial activity is the order of the day.
Aloft and glimmering in the sun at twenty below zero!
Most everything here is aviation related, though there are some partially buried, or forever confined trucks and vans that lurk under post-and-beam structures built for no apparent reason that to trap these four-wheeled vehicles. It almost seems as though vehicles meant for ground transportation are relegated to a lower caste than anything that is or can possibly get itself aloft. Displays of balloon baskets and sewing machines are celebrated for their ability to carry or create the magical balloons that rise, lighter than air, above the airport's landscape. I still haven't figured out why a collection of old barber chairs graces one section of the museum but, hey, you may as well be comfortable watching experimental aircraft take off and land while seated in a chair that has as its guts a marvelously uplifting carriage.
Inside the private museum several whole airplanes exist.
Almost as if Post Mills has become Vermont's own Smithsonian Institution for aviation!
It was this past winter that I discovered living next door to this Airport would cause me to fall madly in love with finding a way to get my body aloft. Some of the more exciting ways to do this included my meeting a para-skier, a kite skier, and a balloonist. Really, this was all when there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground and temperatures were in the single digits or below. Balloons would rise from next to the temporary sheds near the airport's main building every other day, on average, throughout the winter. Temperatures of minus 20 did little to stop balloons from ascending and floating off into the blue shoulders of sky above the barren and twiggy hills.
A para skier directly overhead on a sunny winter day makes the magic of lift over gravity a reality!
Easing up off the ground is a bit tricky. Keeping the "sail" directly overhead is critical so the pilot doesn't get pulled over sideways with the propellor cutting through the critical cords that attach chute to "sailor."
One of the more interesting characters out there was a para-skier, so known for his ability to raise a parachute above his head and zoom off into the horizon using skis to skip across the snow until he generated enough lift to get airborne. He carried a backpack stuffed with a motor that spun a large, wooden propellor behind it. Hanging from the backpack was a carburetor, and beneath that a gas tank. I was sure this was an explosive death wish, but the pilot told me it was plenty safe so long as the parachute cords didn't get tangled in the propellor. To this end, he had decided to use a round-edged wooden propeller versus a carbon fiber propeller with sharper edges to minimize the possibility of cutting a cord. I was skeptical, but I watched him take of and land dozens of times with seeming ease throughout the winter.
Another cold-weather meeting was with a kite skier. This is a version of the water-based kite boarding, where a parachute and a board are used to sail and skip across (and above) the water at very high speeds. Here, on the snow-covered landing strip, I watched this denizen of the airstrip flit around the runways at speeds faster than the wind, frequently getting fully airborne before jolting down hard for landings that were as exciting as they were unbelievable breathtaking to watch.
Trailers with their white-covered cargo all ready to molt in gliders itching to get aloft.
Fast forward from Winter to Spring, as all of us who live here in the Upper Valley region of NH and VT can attest happens faster than a speeding bullet. The snow had disappeared when no sooner did white hulking masses get trailered in and parked along the runways. Had I not seen them before, I'd have imagined them to be some kind of wheeled dinosaurs waiting to be fed the Spring-sweet grass of the airport's dual landing strips. But, no, on the next sunny day, these creatures opened their wings and emerged from their white chrysalis' as gliders to be towed up into the blue by single-propellered airplanes that had been waiting patiently all winter long in the many hangars this airport houses. This past weekend, we watched dozens of take-offs and landings that kept us and our dog thoroughly entertained with the incredible lightness of fixed-wing airplanes towing their payloads aloft to release them and let them magically circle downward to ease into the freshly-cut Spring grass.
John and his 1946 Luscombe's first-of-its-kind (purportedly), full-metal production plane named "Lily." He's the plane's third owner in 72 years, and had just flown it in from Oklahoma.
Wandering the landing strips, which include two picnic tables under their own post-and-beam structure covers (one on floats for rafting upon a lake on a hot summer day!), I came across a gentleman who was thrilled to show me his plane named Lily. This is a single propeller, 1946 Luscombe. She was "borne" the same year as its current owner, John Halpin of Thetford, and now also of Oklahoma. He'd bought Lois in Illinois 7 years earlier, learning that she'd been named by her then-owner after his daughter whom he equated as being just a beautiful as the plane. Interestingly, John's a blacksmith and a farrier who's shod horses in and around the Upper Valley. The Luscombe is purported to be the first all-metal production plane made in the United States. I suppose the metal worker in John must have really taken to this lovely little aircraft, and he's been flying it back and forth from VT to OK each year. It takes him a day and a half or so to make the trip which consists of eight stops, with each leg of the trip being four and a half hours. He needs to refuel and also unfurl his body from the side-by-side two-seater craft for rest stops and a good leg stretching!
There's so much more to see at the Post Mills Airport, it might need a second article. But, safe to say, it is here that you can spot the only Vermontasaurus, a giant, dinosaur-shaped mosaic of bits and pieces of wood cobbled together to create a public artwork of super-sized sculpture that is a marvel to see. It stretches to 122 feet long and 25 feet in height. And, you can actually walk right into it to have a look around it's great girth and dark belly! There's also a baby-Vermontasaurus, and a Vermontasaurus on wheels for parade purposes that can be seen all year long chomping at the bit to roll on into its next parade.
The world's one and only Vermontasaurus stretches across a quickly-greening Post Mills Airport field in Spring. (Note the Apollo-era spaceship resting just off the nose (to the left) of this giant dino-sculpture made of reclaimed wood.
The Post Mills Airport and its private museum is truly an artistic and collectible array of ground-based and lighter-than-air paraphernalia to amuse and delight people of all ages. I highly recommend a visit. You can take a look at this Facebook page for dozens of photos of indoor images as well as aerial photos that just might make you decide to go for a balloon ride this Spring, Sumer, or Fall. Although the airport's owner, Brian Boland, is known for flying high on below zero days, I suspect getting aloft at those temperatures is not for those who prefer to keep their toes and fingers warm all winter long. This Spring or Summer is my bet for a great time to get yourself aloft and leap tall trees, hills, and meadows in a single balloon-bridled bound. Brian seems to be the superman of the airways around here, in addition to his whimsically delightful creations on the ground for all ages to enjoy.
The red wind sock shows a a steady breeze with its backdrop the airport's main building and private museum (right), and the Post Mills cemetery and church along Route 244 abutting the Airport.
The Post Mills Airport has its own Wikipedia page, a Facebook page, and a Vermontasaurus Wiki page, too! It seems that its online presence is ample. But your presence, afoot or aloft, is certainly one that will benefit considerably by making the trip to Post Mills on Thetford's western fringe to have a look around this unusual and delightful airport. This is a truly unique slice of a grass strip, general aviation, experimental craft wonderment, and balloonist airport nestled comfortably within the buoyant hills of Vermont. Bring the kids. This'll be an outing to remember.
A floating picnic table with its own roof!
Crazily-painted trucks sinking into the ground amuse and make you wonder who might have done this, and for what illuminating reason!
Hood art on a slowly-sinking pick-up truck quotes, oddly enough, the Muppets — who else!
The aerial (super)man, Brian, on a cold winter's day heading aloft over tall trees and hillsides—not faster than a speeding bullet, but much happier for being airborne. The real magic of balloon flight starts here in Post Mills, VT and never ends for this man of the skies.
Dave Celone, a/k/a Poetic Licence, is a writer and poet who also happens to own Long River Gallery & Gifts in White River Junction, VT. He'd love to take his first balloon ride some day at Post Mills in VT. Click Here to sign up to receive future dailyuv.com articles as they get published by Dave, a/k/a Poetic Licence.