A Family Adventure

in the mountains, ocean, and air

Maine Grass Strips and Bowman Fly In

August 29, 2015
Emilie Phillips

For Tyson’s birthday, we met up with Rene, Heather, and Bill and flew up to Bowman for the overnight fly in.

The 2018 Bowman fly-in is August 25-26.

As usual it was a scramble to get everyone out in the morning, but we arrived at Biddeford Maine (B19) at the same time as Bill and only a little after Rene and Heather. Our one packing mishap was Tyson swapped car seats to lighten the airplane, but both of us had forgotten that Isaac’s new headset doesn’t fit in the other car seat. I propped him up with an extra pillow while Tyson put a little gas in the airplane at Biddeford.

We took the scenic route from there to Bowman, stopping at a bunch of private strips along the way. All of these strips require prior permission.

On final at RIchardson Island
On final at Richmond Island

First stop was Richmond Island. This island is owned by the folks from Spurwink farm on the mainland. They host an annual fly in. The island has two cottages, a bunch of sheep, and several campsites, reservation required. Even though it is close to Portland, out on the island seemed quite remote. A nice Maine island with waves crashing on the rocks, and a few wind blown trees. Some years the runway is poorly maintained, this year it was freshly mowed. The runway was about 900′ with a good approach from the ocean. While we were there, a trike with amphibious floats passed overhead and then circled back to land and say hi. Years ago he brought students out to the island for flight instruction in ultralights.


From there we skirted around Portland’s airspace and headed inland to Cliff’s. It is marked as Dow on the sectional chart. There is a house at one end and a hangar at the other end. The hangar and runway aren’t very well maintained. It sounds like there is a story involving job and schools and romance, the net result of which is Cliff doesn’t live there any more. He just rents the house out. The trees next to the runway have grown in to maybe 60′ apart. The runway is 1500′ long, but with an approach over the trees one way and over the trees and hill the other. Tyson, Bill, and Rene walked the runway while Heather, Isaac and I picked blackberries.

Bill was hungry, so we only made one more scenic stop at Wales (ME6). This one is a public grass airport. It has a nice picnic area under the trees and a path down to a muddy farm stream. We joked we should come back here to pitch a tent since it would be quieter than Bowman. From there we went straight to Bowman (B10) with one impromptu detour to inspect an unknown airstrip from the air.


The Bowman fly in is a combination carnival for the locals and aviation hangout for pilots. They have antique engines, simple carnival games, a bouncy house, raffles, vendors, a yard sale, carnival food including Maine bright pink hot dogs, airplane rides, helicopter rides, people camping out in vans, tents, etc. New this time they had a country rock band in the evening.

We ate lunch and chatted with a few other super cub types. After lunch we splintered disorganized, but 5 airplanes ended up regrouping in the air to visit all the local pilots they knew.

We followed the river up to Swans (3S2) for a touch and go. Further upriver at Mexico we flew around the foul smelling paper plant and took the north fork to Douten’s. He had also just come back from Bowman’s so we chatted a while. Rene and Heather needed to head south to meet their commitments, and one of the other two pilots I didn’t know also needed to head out. We all passed by Phil Zink’s and he waved from his hangar, then we split up.

Flying up the Androscoggin river
Flying up the Androscoggin river

We continued up the south fork toward Bethel (0B1) with Bill and Greg in his 180. We flew the low altitude scenic route right along the meandering river. The boaters waved as we passed. Gas at Bethel was cheap. Then Bill headed home. I’m not sure where Greg went. And Tyson, Isaac, and I flew back to Bowman. We briefly stopped at Zink’s hoping he would be there to chat, but he wasn’t.

After dinner, the local pilots finally got a break from running the event, so they had fun flying low passes over the airport. Almost all the transient aircraft had left. Only a few pilots camped out. One RV-7 flew in late. The pilot hopped out and ran to meet another family with a pickup truck and the set about unloading a hot air balloon. It was impressive to see a single gas powered fan completely inflate the balloon. The a couple little puffs and three big flames from the propane tank and the balloon lifted up. Unlike most balloons, this one did not have a basket, instead the propane tank hung directly off the balloon with a single seat mounted to one side of the tank. The pilot hovered up and down a little bit while on tether and then decided he was ready to go.

One person hot air balloon
One person hot air balloon

He applied one big column of flame, waved, and then couldn’t get the tank to produce any more flame. His friend ran over to help. Apparently the friend owned the balloon and this was the first time this guy had flown it. Unbeknown to him, he had accidentally turned off the pilot light. With that fixed, he lifted off. As he drifted away he hollered down “all I see is trees!” The next morning we learned he kept his flight quite short, landing in the one good field he found 2 miles away rather than hoping to find another.

Tyson picked a good spot for the tent. It was far enough from the lights and band that neither one kept us up all night. And somehow we fit all three of us in our two person backpacking tent for the night. We all felt squashed in the morning, but it was worth it for a lighter airplane on Saturday.

We had breakfast and flew home just as the day trippers started to arrive.

The complete flight plan was:
NH16 – B19 – Richmond Island – 54ME – ME6 – B10 – 3S2 – ME17 – 90ME – 0B1 – 90ME – B10 – KAFN – NH16

GPS track
GPS track
Flight plan
Flight plan

All Photos