Climbing Once Again: 2000 to Today
Upon Amelia Little’s death in 1986, the Little property, along with the private lease to the airport which was set to expire in 2001, passed into the ownership of Historic New England. As the airport approached the end of its lease, debate began over its fate.
In recent years the airport had run into problems over upkeep and its usage as fair grounds. Historic New England planned to forgo renewing the lease. When plans for closing the airport were made public in December 1999, the local community rallied around Plum Island airfield. Through letter writing, meetings with Historic New England, and articles in local newspapers, the New England aviation and local communities voiced their appreciation of the airport. They cited not only its recreational and economic benefits but also the historical role of Plum Island as the site of some of the earliest flights in New England.
By the end of 2000, Historic New England had decided that keeping the airport open would be in the best interests of the public, as well as in keeping with the organization’s mission to document twentieth-century history.
The new leaseholder was to be a non-profit organization under the name of Plum Island Community Airfield, Inc. (PICA), which developed from the grassroots group that had taken a very active part in trying to keep the airport open. PICA worked to develop a plan that would keep the airport in operation while simultaneously promoting local aviation history.
PICA signed a new five-year lease in July 2001, and with Victor Capozzi as airfield manager, Plum Island Airport was reopened on August 25, 2001. In 2002, PICA also opened the Burgess Aviation Museum - located in the former Cockpit Café - which documents Plum Island’s part in New England aviation. Capozzi managed the airfield until September 2002, followed by Eagle East Aviation, which managed it until 2005. PICA managed the airfield itself for the final year of its lease.
In 2006, Steve Noyes of Newbury took over the lease with Historic New England and now manages it as a non-profit organization under the name Plum Island Aerodrome. He immediately built a new hangar, where he houses a working aircraft restoration museum to complement the Burgess Aviation Museum. The airport also continues to give airplane rides, house private planes, give flight lessons, perform aircraft maintenance work, and remain an active member of the community.