Construction continues Thursday afternoon at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. The work on the east end of the facility has closed off access to the runways for some operators. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A construction project at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport has highlighted what some tenants say is a growing disconnect between airport users and management.

Airport officials say it’s simply an unfortunate situation, but they’re working through it.

When construction began this week on a large resurfacing project at the airport’s east ramp, it closed off access to several tenants and pilots based there. Some, including Skyward Aviation, have said they will essentially have to cease operations for two months.

The east ramp is the location of hangers used by LifeFlight and other flight service companies and pilots.

A number of those affected asked airport management to phase out the project so it didn’t disrupt businesses for an extended period, and said management had plenty of time to limit the impact on tenants. Some said it’s just the latest example of a rift between longtime tenants and airport administration.

A post on the airport’s website addressed the concerns this week, with airport Director James Scheller stating the project could not be done in phases due to several logistical and financial reasons.


“I want to express that I am with you 100% when it comes to this project’s element of inconvenience,” he said in the letter to tenants. “However, this project was set in motion last year when the bids were completed.”

Scheller, through the airport board of directors, declined to answer specific questions for this story.

However, earlier in the week when construction had just begun, Scheller said crews had uncovered “a lot of unknowns that weren’t foreseen,” including drainage from when the airport was run by the U.S. Navy.

“You couldn’t have phased it out,” he said.

The airport board is made up of elected officials and residents of Auburn and Lewiston, as well as a member of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council.

An email chain forwarded to the Sun Journal between dozens of tenants and officials depicts the level of scrutiny management has received over the project.


At least one claims that tenants were initially told the project could be done in phases to accommodate users during the work, but that tenants were then notified of the two-month closure just one week before construction was to begin.

“It is inconceivable to me that the airport authorities would arrange ‘improvements’ in such a manner that a local business will effectively be put out of business for two months,” pilot John Mills wrote on the email thread.

Tom Ward of Skyward Aviation, which services planes, said, “At this point I’m not sure if I’ll be able to function and help anyone since there is no plan to give me accommodations anywhere else.”

Mills, a tenant of 21 years, said his plane is in line to be serviced by Skyward.

Ward said at least two pilots who have done humanitarian flights out of Auburn have relocated to Portland.

The east ramp project was announced in July 2021 after the airport secured $1.6 million in federal funding, a majority of which was set aside to reconstruct the east ramp on the Hotel Road side of the facility. The section houses hangers used by LifeFlight and others.


In the letter to tenants this week, Scheller said the east ramp project was initially scheduled to begin in April, but was delayed by the contractor. He said that while he understands the disruption it’s causing, there are several reasons it’s being done all at once.

According to Scheller, the FAA and the state have a construction safety and phasing plan that is set in stone. If the plan was adjusted now, the project would be pushed to spring 2023, he said.

“If this happened, the contractor would be allowed to rebid the project and the estimated cost increase (based on current inflation) would be an additional $450,000,” he said. “Then there would be the engineering costs to phase the project.”

He added that even if airport management had known the extent of tenant concerns about phasing the project earlier in the year, he estimated there would have been close to $225,000 in additional engineering costs toward the effort.

“I am hoping when this project is completed, we can all look back on the improved pavement and enjoy it,” he said.

The project is scheduled to be complete by Sept. 28.


Ron Russell, a pilot who has been flying out of the Auburn-Lewiston airport since 1969, believes the issue is deeper than concern over tenant and client access during some construction.

He said the airport board “is not competent to make decisions” and believes its manager “is taking us in the wrong direction.”

“For years I and most of my fellow airport users have not raised these issues,” he said. “Only in the past few months has the pot boiled over. Everyone here has had enough. It’s time to enlighten the public that we are in trouble. The system does not work. And it is getting worse.”

Reconstruction of the east ramp of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport continues Thursday afternoon in Auburn. The project has closed off access to the runways for some operators. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Last month, the airport received a visit from U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in an effort to secure $1.6 million in federal funding for a new hangar, which airport officials said is part of long-term goals to grow the airport and its offerings. They’re hoping that could eventually include commercial flights.

Glen Holmes, Auburn’s director of business and community development and airport board chairman, said at the time that the proposed project would satisfy a demand for more aircraft space and provide additional revenue.

A statement from Auburn officials said the city is in discussions with tenant Elite Airways “to hopefully grow to the point of offering commercial flights directly from Auburn.”


While officials say big things are in the works, existing tenants say they are being overlooked and ignored.

Ward said that it was typical of the airport not to take care of its own, “always looking for that big dream of commuters coming in.”

Pilot Annie Beaulieu said management and the board have for the past year “ignored the interests and concerns of the pilots and tenants.”

“There needs to be urgent changes and accountability at the management and board levels if the airport is going to prosper,” she said.

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