MINOT — You can still see the hangar among the trees, a weathered gray ghost you pass in a flash.
But for anyone who’s ever heard of Roland Maheu’s exploits, it conjures the image of a man clinging to the side of a Piper Cub gliding in ominous silence over the flats along the heights of Woodman Hill Road.
His left hand clutches the window post, his left foot on the landing gear, his right foot dangling in space and his right hand poised on the propeller. A flutter, a sputter, and, on a second crank, the engine roars to life. The plane responds as the man again takes control. It rises, turns and disappears below the trees.
Beyond those trees, beyond the hangar, at 720 feet above the sea, there’s a 2,100- foot grass landing strip, Maheu’s Airport, and it’s been there since 1942, when Roland Maheu bought 200 acres of farmland so he could continue teaching others how to fly.
That land, that piece of aviation history, is now up for sale, at least the 121.5 acres on which the old hangar, the runway and the four bedroom house, with a large living room which once doubled as a pilots’ lounge, built by Maheu are located.
It’s a tale heard too often these days. After Maheu died in 1999 the expense of keeping the property up became too much for his heirs and the bank took over.
In October 2009, the current owners, Wilbur and Vicki Myers, purchased it at auction from TD Bank. It had extensive woodlands. They had a son with an airplane. There were possibilities.
The possibilities still exist, and the owners hope to find a buyer who will appreciate the rich history that it has to offer.
Maheu may have been a featured pilot at air shows throughout the Northeast with his wing walking, snap rolls, square rolls, square loops, bottleneck loops and landing on the top of a moving automobile. He might have earned himself a spot in Ripley’s Believe It or Not with his trick, repeated hundreds of times, of cutting the engine while flying solo and climbing out of the plane to restart it manually, but he was much more than a stunt pilot.
Many will remember Maheu for starting up one of the first Volkswagen dealerships in the state and his firm, Auto Center, was one of three businesses located, in the early 1960s, on his strip of Minot Avenue adjacent to his Television Center, which opened when television in Maine was in its infancy, and his Motor Home Center.
But with all that, aviation was first in his heart. He held a pilot’s license for 64 years and he taught thousands of other people how to fly.
When World War II broke out, Maheu became a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and found himself teaching young men who wanted to fly for their country.
He was operating out of Greenlaw Field off Stevens Mills Road between Garfield and Hotel roads when the word came down: All airports within 30 miles of the coast had to close.
The 800-foot grass runway at Greenlaw Field was just within the 30-mile limit.
Maheu looked around and found the 200-acre parcel along Woodman Hill Road, just beyond the 30-mile mark. He was in business.
Clint Myers, son of the current owners, believes that with the growing focus in the private aviation community in the preservation of gems like Maheu Airport and a new wave of “Air Parks” popping up around the country, this property could see new life.
“It has such great potential for someone who has an interest and passion for aviation,” Myers said, “It’s a really unique and special property.”
The listing price is $500,000.