FRYEBURG, Maine — A small group of dedicated aviation enthusiasts are hoping to bring commercial air travel to the Fryeburg Airport in the form of their own airline.
“Our proximity to remote areas make us a perfect destination for people looking to partake in social distancing, which is all the rage lately,” said involved local pilot Ed Burgerwrong.
With some luck and money, Air Fry could take to the skies as soon as some pesky details can be worked out.
“The runway is a little small for the current crop of commercial jets, but with Boeing’s grounded fleet of the 737 Max collecting dust, we’ve asked the big guys there to consider downsizing the mothballed airliners, removing the advanced features that have been identified as potential issues," said airport authority member Karl Tippytoes.
"The modified airplane, to be designated the 737 Min, could be just the regional hot rod needed to really cut down on air travel time.”
Addressing the runway length could pose a challenge, however, and talks are ongoing with the Maine Roads Department about joining a section of Route 5/ Route 113 that aligns with the runway.
Gates similar to a railroad crossing would be installed to temporarily block traffic during arrivals and departures of the jet aircraft.
An MRD representative noted that this hybrid infrastructure solution would be a win-win, as FAA funding would help defray the cost of maintenance on this stretch of Route 5/Route 113, and the blast of the jet engines could mitigate ice during winter months.
“Think of the added jobs that Air Fry could bring to our area,” interjected airport manager Dave Cuddlesome. “TSA screeners, ticket agents and baggage handlers would need to be hired and trained, and what’s an airport terminal without a redundant selection of overpriced fast-food establishments? This could become the place to go for those 3 a.m. Cinnabon cravings.”
Of course, progress never goes unchallenged.
There were a few local residents who felt that no airplane trip would feel right without an hour-plus car ride to Portland, and that leaving from Fryeburg would ruin the experience.
But proponents think the Air Fry experience will sell itself, starting when passengers climb the portable steps to board their flight. With limited space in the terminal building, the newly paved outdoor ramp could serve as the screening area. Nothing says “vacation” like standing in your socks, exposed to the elements, while a beefy female TSA agent examines your shoes and belt buckle. As we all know, the true gateway to adventure is a full body scan.
The sky certainly seems to be the limit for Air Fry, but unfortunately it may be some time before the concept gets of the ground.
Among the hurdles is funding, which currently falls short by "a wicked huge amount" (according to Tipptoes). Then there's convincing the FAA of the need for another regional air carrier, and identifying and contracting destination airports. Since most of the more popular airports are near or at gate capacity, they're looking at smaller, privately owned airfields.
"We've heard that Backwater Regional in Delaware is interested," Burgerwrong said optimistically. "From there it's just a short ride to the nation's capital. And then there's Wrong Brothers Memorial Field in Kitty Hawk, N.C. A bit windy, but even if you overshoot, the sand dunes make for a soft landing."
Air Fry will need to launch before competition — and the skies — become filled with people carrying drones.
But when it does, some are hinting that the historic Oxford County town may well want to change its name ... to Flyeburg!