A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT
November 25th, 2020 at 10:25 pm
Posted by Jeff Byers in Running

This is a tough time of the year to get out on the trails. For one, the “stick season” weather can be kind of grim, and most of the people out on the trails are carrying their guns, in search of the elusive slow buck. I don’t begrudge the hunters their time, or at least not much. We have the trails for the rest of the year, and they get them for a only a few weeks, so it seems fair! I was thinking to myself…..”Where would people carrying guns, even for non-nefarious reasons, not be allowed, where I might want to run?” And then the answer came to me – what is the one place in the US where guns are never allowed? Airports of course! Now, I have no interest in doing laps on an airport concourse (although I have done that to kill time on long layovers), but thought that a run around the periphery of our own Middlebury International Airport might be the safest place around to trail run. I had also recently noticed that the fencing which was put up around the tiny airport a few years ago (can’t have enough airport security!) also had a 6 foot wide apron around its periphery for maintenance. Sounds like a good place for a run.

Starting the run down by the corner of Munson Road and Schoolhouse Hill Road, I came face to face with the fence that would soon be my companion. The dire warnings sent a shiver up my spine. No way I was crossing that wall…Oops…I mean fence.

Stern Warnings!

I started my run to the left, alongside the fence which seemed to stretch on forever. The footing was perfect, and I even saw a few deer prints in the soft sandy soil. Perhaps they too had figured out that Homeland Security made this a safe zone for them? I also thought it was cool how the wire fence semi-shaded the path in front of me – it looked almost like it was meant to be lanes, but there was no sign of oncoming traffic.

Heading further south, I turned the corner at the end of the runway, running past the “back yards” of some of the auto repair and storage facilities on Schoolhouse Hill Road, before returning north, closer to the airport facilities. When I reached the paved road, the gates were open allowing me to peruse the airplanes, as after all, it was a quiet work day there. Some of the planes were lined up tidily, clearly ready to be flown.

Neatly lined up

On the other hand, there were also some real “beaters” – the remnants of older planes that were clearly being scavenged for parts, or a few that looked like fixer upper specials, that were a long way from being airworthy. One oldie was the following airplane, with the name “Comanche 250” inscribed on the side. Looking up the details on this plane, clearly missing some major parts, like part of its tail, I found that it was a model put into service in 1958.

Comanche 250

Running past the “control tower” – actually not a tower, but just one of the buildings, I realized, much to my dismay, that the official name isn’t “Middlebury International Airport” after all. “Middlebury State Airport” sounds so much less grandiose, and to think, I had been naming it incorrectly all these years. Finally, I sought out an old jet aircraft, that had been sitting semi-derelict alongside one of the runway sheds, partially covered in a tarp, for probably 20 years. It was no longer in its rusting place, but as I headed towards the main tie-down area, I saw it there, actually up on its wheels, and looking considerably healthier than I last saw it. Asking around, I found it was an aircraft called the “Fouga Magister” and was an old French training jet from the early 50’s – literally the dawn of jet aircraft. How on earth did someone every fly it in to such a short runway? How on earth was anybody ever going to fly it out of there? Finally, who on earth would ever fly a jet like this, which literally looked like not much more than a few seats strapped on a toy rocket engine? In any case, this cool oldie is the blue plane in the back of the picture below.

Fouga Magister

Realizing that I was indeed on the wrong side of the fence, and liable for who knows what kind of federal offense, I headed out, and followed the fence further to the north. Quite a few paths joined in, although I expect that most of them were paths from people’s back yards, and at one point, literally was on someone’s back yard. They must have been bummed when the airport put up the wall, I mean fence, spoiling their view! Finally, returning to my starting point, I concluded an easy, and kind of cool 2.6 mile run. And no, I am not going to include the altitude profile for this one, because, you know, airports are kind of flat!

Route around the Airport

Post Script: I would be hard pressed to think of myself as any sort of aircraft afficionado – after all, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have flown on small or private aircraft. Sometimes, however, I discover cool stuff that has little to do with running, per se, and my curiosity was piqued on the Fouga Magister, so I did a little research. OK – all I did was google “Fouga Magister Middlebury Airport”, and did a little reaching back into my memories, having lived near the airport since 1992, and in the Middlebury area since 1986. I found some cool stuff! Most notably, I found an old video credited to “The 1980s” on Youtube of a Fouga Magister, probably not the one that is currently at the airport, taking off and landing from the Middlebury airport! I also discovered that this model of jet was the first military jet trainer ever produced in any sort of quantity, and even saw some use, after being equipped with weaponry, by the Israeli Air force during the 6-day war in 1967. I unearthed a page dedicated to the actual Fouga currently parked in Middlebury which listed its actual owner (a pilot who lives in PA), and its provenance – this particular jet was built in 1958, and originally served in the Finnish Air Force!

The aforementioned video also shows an old DC-3 doing “touch and goes” (if you don’t know what that means, neither did I, but you can figure it out from the video) at the Middlebury Airport. I have to suspect that the pilot of this craft was probably local legend Foster “Mac” MacEdward, a gregarious and fascinating pilot who passed away at the age of 97 in 2019. Although I only had the pleasure of speaking with him a handful of times, I knew from mutual acquaintances that he had flown the military version of the DC-3 “over the hump” in WW2, helping keep the Nationalist Chinese forces supplied. Friends who knew him much better told me that he was still flying a DC-3 around the time of this video! If you are curious to learn a little bit about Mac, I found a page dedicated to his memory, including a link to his obituary.

Finally, given that I live a stone’s throw from the airport, I do remember hearing the occasional roar of a jet engine back in the early 90’s. I rather suspect that the demise of most jet flight from the airport coincided with the increase in homebuilding in the immediate area. The only noise I have ever heard from the airport for many years, however, has been from military helicopters during occasional National Guard training. I have also been told that it takes an exceptionally skilled pilot to use this this airport with any jet or anything much bigger than a 4-seater prop plane due to the short runway, and the mountain running alongside.

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