It’s no surprise to find a 93-acre corn and soybean farm off rural Route 301 in Kent County, Maryland. But you may be intrigued by its 3,000-foot grass runway.
This is the home of the Massey Aerodrome and Air Museum, a small airport and museum that gives off 1940s vibes—the realized dream of a group of aviation enthusiasts who wanted a place to land their planes and preserve the history of this land situated between the Delaware and Chesapeake bays.
The grass runway draws in a specific type of pilot, says William Doughtery, part owner, self-described docent, and all-around facilitator. “Pilots fly in because we’re a grass strip, and old planes like grass,” he says.
The airport and museum offer a library of publications on aviation history plus the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of a DC-3 or the AN-2. It’s a friendly, welcoming place frequented by flight enthusiasts—even on days when Massey is closed to tours, if someone is on the grounds or at work on a plane in a hangar, they’re more than willing to talk to visitors.
Drawing in the old planes are Massey’s fly-in events which bring together pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and the general public. The first fly-in took place in 2001, the same year Massey opened. It became the recipe for every other successful event that has followed.
“Part of our fly-ins is the food. Free food and airplanes are too much to miss,” Dougherty said. “There’s something for everyone. It’s both a party and an opportunity to talk with pilots and anyone interested in flight.”
Turnout for a May 13 Chili Fest is proof of their popularity. In spite of nearly all-day rain, the fly-in was declared a success. Five planes landed and 175 people showed up to enjoy buffet tables full of chili and an assortment of potluck dishes. From Middletown, Delaware, the Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol braved the rain to park cars and conduct hangar tours.
On June 10, the 51st Antique Airplane Fly-in returns to Massey. Hosted by the Potomac Antique Aero Squadron, a chapter of the Antique Airplane Association, it’s the only association-judged event in the area. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. over 100 antique and classic planes, biplanes, and general aviation aircraft will land at the Massey airport. The Museum will be open for touring and there’ll be opportunities to watch planes land and take off with plenty of photo opportunities, food and fun.
“Massey is a gem in the middle of nowhere,” says Lt. Susan Kaztmire of the Civil Air Patrol’s Middleton Cadet Squadron. “They have such a phenomenal aviation history. If you’ve got the slightest interest in aviation, it’s a great place to go and get up close and personal with the aircraft and people who know them.”
On Father’s Day weekend, Massey hosts a Powered Para Glider Camp. For three days flight fans can strap on a motorized backpack and soar through the sky.
While the sound of engines, and the sight of brightly colored vintage and antique aircraft can be thrilling, Nick Mirales offers a unique way to experience the Chesapeake. In the open cockpit of his bright yellow 1944 Stearman biplane, Mirales flies passengers from where the Sassafras River meets the Chesapeake Bay, towards the Chester River over towards Rock Hall, and along the shoreline. “We’re high enough to see the distance but not so high you can’t see the fields, rivers, boats, and cars,” he said. “Over the agricultural areas you can experience many sights and smells… like a field of freshly cut grass.”
Betty Lockwood, 91, came to Mirales to cross an airplane ride off her bucket list. And she isn’t the oldest passenger he has flown. The late Richard Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle on the infamous WWII Tokyo Raid, was 98 when he flew with Mirales. “I haven’t made the ‘100-year mark’ yet,” said Mirales. For years, he’s created unforgettable upper Chesapeake experiences. “Everyone who flies with me comes out with great smiles. It’s been a joy to own and operate this airplane and take people up, share the experience, and see the happy faces.”