Twitchell Airport property in Turner under contract to be sold

Nov. 8—TURNER — Twitchell Airport, the last in Maine that is privately owned and commercially operated, will cease operation at the end of the month after 76 years.

The land owners, Kurt and Kelvin Youland, have decided to sell the roughly 145 acres the airport and seaplane facilities share, including hangar space and docks. A self-storage facility will reportedly be built on the property.

The airport has been managed by Dirigo Aerospace Solutions since 2019, which is owned by husband and wife team Kate and Mark McGhee, who took over the role from Dale Twitchell when he retired.

"The entire aviation community has been affected by this, because Twitchell's is such an iconic, historic place," Kate McGhee said. The loss will primarily be felt by recreational pilots with small planes and seaplanes who live in the area or have second homes or cabins in Maine. McGhee estimates that means at least 75 to 100 pilots will have to find a new airport to call home.

Twitchell's was also the only place in the Northeast to rent a seaplane solo, and McGhee adds Twitchell's has been the only on-the-water fuel stop for seaplanes to refuel south of Greenville, until one gets to Rhode Island. Twitchell's also offered maintenance and repair of small and commercial airplanes, sold fuel, offered flight instruction, plane rentals and leased hangar space.

McGhee said the Maine Warden Service would fuel up its seaplanes used in search, rescue and other operations at Twitchell's. Efforts to reach the agency for comment on the closure were unsuccessful.

At least 40 planes were based at Twitchell's, McGhee said, with outside tie-downs for a few dozen more. In addition, they did 50 to 75 seaplane float-to-tire conversions, swapping out the floats for tires at the beginning and end of each season.

McGhee said they were notified they have to vacate the property by the end of November, which means collecting many years worth of equipment, tools and support vehicles and finding a new home for it all. They will also have to relocate their business, which is something they are talking about with other airports.

"Oh, I'm heartbroken," McGhee said about the closure. "You know, it is difficult at this point to even be here right now, because there are so many people who already started taking their planes away and everything."

The McGhees have dedicated themselves to the airport since they took over management of the facility, working seven days a week, 365 days a year to keep the it running.

Both of them fly planes, and Mark has 35 years of experience as a certified airplane mechanic and commercial pilot, skills that are in high demand. However, starting a mature business from scratch will be a challenge.

McGhee said there was an organized effort to purchase the property to keep it as an airport by local pilots and non-pilots in the community, but it was not successful.