2012-02-08 / Business

Taking wing in Brunswick

Maine Coastal Flight offers variety of services
BY PATRICK GABRION Times Record Business Editor


ERIK VROOM, operations manager and flight instructor at Maine Coastal Flight at Brunswick Executive Airport, had his pilot’s license before he had a driver’s license. “As operations manager, I oversee the day-to-day flight operations and ensure all required inspections and maintenance are done on time,” Erik said. “As a flight instructor, I help people achieve their goals and dreams of becoming a pilot in both the Cessna and Cirrus aircraft we have.” 
TROY R. BENNETT / THE TIMES RECORD ERIK VROOM, operations manager and flight instructor at Maine Coastal Flight at Brunswick Executive Airport, had his pilot’s license before he had a driver’s license. “As operations manager, I oversee the day-to-day flight operations and ensure all required inspections and maintenance are done on time,” Erik said. “As a flight instructor, I help people achieve their goals and dreams of becoming a pilot in both the Cessna and Cirrus aircraft we have.” TROY R. BENNETT / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK — Though they aren’t as big as the departed Navy’s P-3s, there are airplanes using the long, 8,000-foot runway at the newly named Brunswick Executive Airport.

And one of the new companies providing services at the civilian airfield is Maine Coastal Flight, with David Vroom and his son, Erik, at the controls.

“We are here to provide the flying services of the community, from scenic flights, learning to fly and getting your pilot certificate or just taking a flight with an instructor to see what it is like to fly an airplane, and to provide training for pilots in the area,” said David, who is also a commercial airline pilot.

The Times Record recently chatted with David and Erik to learn, among other things, why they decided to expand their business presence in Brunswick, what it is like flying small planes at the former Navy base, and how one begins the process of obtaining a pilot’s license.

Q: First of all, give us a little history of Maine Coastal Flight and its beginnings in Bar Harbor.

A. Just about six years ago, a friend of mine, my family and I started Maine Coastal Flight from the Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton. We took on the challenge when asked by Columbia Air if we would be interested in starting a flight school and operating the scenic flights from the airport.

Columbia Air had recently taken over the ownership of the fixed base operation at the Bar Harbor Airport and the flight school had stopped running. The airport was in need of a flight school and an operator of the scenic flights. That was the start of Maine Coastal Flight.

Since then, we have grown the flight school by offering ground schools, flight training, aircraft rental and, in 2009, we became a factory authorized Cirrus Aircraft Training Center, providing flight training and renting of this new high-performance airplane. This has now become our specialty, however, we also offer flight training and rent several Cessna 172 airplanes, which is a more affordable airplane to train in for your pilot’s certificate.

Q: David, you are the president of Maine Coastal Flight. Talk about your role in the company.

A: In 2006, Maine Coastal Flight, Inc. was started by Dennis M. Ouimette and myself. We had worked at the Bar Harbor Airport before as we both flew for Bar Harbor Airlines when it was based in Trenton. As a matter of fact, my first flying job was flying scenic flights from the same location we fly the flights from now.

I have tried to make Maine Coastal Flight a good place to work and we strive to provide our customers a safe, personal and affordable experience when they take our scenic flights or learn to fly. I primarily work with the scenic flights and the flight instructors who work here, providing the training and oversight needed for them to be safe and professional pilots and teachers.

Q: You are also a commercial pilot with a major airline. Please describe that job, and when you first became interested in flying. Did you go to school with the thought of becoming a pilot?

A: I went to Northeastern University, which at that time had a campus and aviation program at the Norwood (Mass.) Airport. My intentions when going there was to become a commercial pilot.

My first flying job was in 1979, flying scenic flights from the Bar Harbor Airport for Bar Harbor Airlines. It was there that I met my wife Vicki, who also worked at the scenic flights selling tickets at the time.

Little did we know then that we would be the company that owned and operated the scenic flights almost 27 years later. Our son Erik’s first flying job was also flying scenic flights from the same location.

Q: Erik, you are the operations manager and a certified flight instructor with Maine Coastal Flight. What is your role, and when did the urge to fly begin with you? I understand you had a pilot’s license before you even had a driver’s license.

A: As operations manager, I oversee the day-to-day flight operations and ensure all required inspections and maintenance are done on time. As a flight instructor, I help people achieve their goals and dreams of becoming a pilot in both the Cessna and Cirrus aircraft we have.

Yes, I did have my pilot’s license before my driver’s license. I started having a passion for aviation when I was in high school and I received my private pilot’s license during my senior year of high school.

Q: When and why did you decide to expand your company at Brunswick Executive Airport? Talk about all the services you provide. What types of aircraft do you use?

A:  When hearing that the Brunswick airport would be open to the public, Erik started to show an interest in opening a flight school here and thought it would be a great opportunity.

We worked with MRRA (Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority), the organization that was put in charge of finding businesses for the new Brunswick Executive Airport, and with FlightLevel Aviation, which had been given the contract to be the fixed base operator (FBO). From there, everything just fell into place.

Here in Brunswick, we are providing ground schools and flight training in the Cessna 172, the most widely used airplane for training. We are also a Cirrus Training Center offering training in a brandnew Cirrus SR20, which is a high-performance four-place aircraft used frequently by business owners to travel and manage their businesses.

Q: How have you been received at your Brunswick facility? Please comment on your hangar mates, Kestrel Aircraft Co. and FlightLevel Aviation.

A: The aviation company which provides fuel, maintenance and a location to meet passengers from private airplanes is called the fixed based operator or FBO. In Brunswick, the FBO is FlightLevel Aviation. We work very closely with them, as we both need each other to make the airport run smoothly for all of our customers.

FlightLevel Aviation also has a location in Norwood, Mass., and in Lakeland, Fla., so running an FBO is not new to them. They have been very supportive of our flight school.

All of the people of Kestrel Aircraft have also been very supportive. Alan Klapmeier, the CEO and chairman of Kestrel, is also a co-founder of Cirrus with his brother Dale, so they have roots with Cirrus. They have helped us out and have been very supportive, and hopefully we can be as supportive of their needs as well.

Q: If someone was interested in obtaining a pilot’s license, how much instruction is necessary and what are the costs?

A:  The first step is deciding which certificate a person should obtain.

Anyone starting out can obtain a recreational or a private certificate, with the recreational certificate being easier to obtain and also at a lower cost. With this certificate, you are able to carry one other passenger and all flying must be done in the daytime. This is a great place for someone who is going to fly for recreational purposes.

The other certificate is called a private pilot’s certificate. This will allow you to fly single-engine airplanes without the single passenger restriction and you can also fly at night.

There are several additional requirements for the private pilot certificate. This takes about 10 to 15 hours more instruction than the recreational certificate. Most people prefer to get the private certificate even though it costs more to obtain.

The cost to get a certificate will vary from person to person, however, the cost for the recreational certificate should cost less than $7,000, while the total cost of the private pilot certificate is about $10,000.

We also recommend students schedule three lessons each week, if their schedule allows. We are very flexible with scheduling lessons.

The first step for people to start flying is by taking an introductory flight to see what it is like to fly an airplane and talk to us about their needs, so we can set up a program that works for them.

Starting a ground school is also a place that people begin to start the process of obtaining a pilot’s certificate. It doesn’t cost a lot and provides a good starting point to start lessons.

Q: Were you, as a company, involved in last summer’s inaugural Brunswick International Fly-In and will you participate in future ones? What are the benefits for an airport to host such an event?

A:  We were a sponsor of the fly-in and had our ribbon cutting ceremony during it. There were approximately 300 airplanes at the fly-in, which allowed pilots from around New England a glimpse of the airport.

This year it is going to be a two-day event and we plan to be a sponsor again.

Q: Describe what its like approaching Brunswick’s civilian-used airport that offers twin 8,000-foot runways and a lot of space? It must be pretty cool?

A: As an airport for smaller airplanes than the P-3s that were previously based here, the facility is huge. It also provides a very safe environment for people to learn to fly. The runways are wide and long, so you feel like you are landing at a busy and large commercial airport.

This airport has more capacity than what is currently needed and only one of the two runways is being used. However, the 8,000-foot runway is a great benefit to the Mid-coast area as larger businesses that have aircraft will be able to use this airport instead of going to Portland. It will be easy for corporations to conduct business in the area.

Right now, there isn’t the need for the second runway. However, as the airport grows in the future, the second runway may need to be reopened. There is a lot of growth available for the airport to provide different aviation services.

Q: David, being a pilot of small planes and big jetliners, talk about the similarities and differences, besides the obvious one of size? Do you have a favorite plane?

A: While flying both large Boeing 757s and 767s to many international destinations is quite a bit different than flying smaller single-engine airplanes, all airplanes fly basically the same way.

When flying flights for an airline you have the support and resources of several people who help make the flights safe and efficient. Flying the smaller airplanes requires a lot of planning, however, as you have take the time to do what several people do to make the correct decisions as to weather conditions and the condition of the airplane.

However, it is easier when you are planning a flight on your own schedule instead of the type of flying that the airlines do.

As to my favorite airplane, I would have to say it is whatever one I am flying at the time. Every airplane has different flying characteristics and I enjoy flying many different airplanes, whether they are a small Piper Cub that has two seats or a large Boeing with hundreds of passengers.

Q: In Bar Harbor, you have a business called Scenic Flights of Acadia. Do you offer that service here in Brunswick?

A: Yes, we do offer scenic flights from Brunswick. This area is very scenic and when you first take off from the Brunswick airport you immediately witness the beautiful coastline and natural beauty of the area. If you haven’t seen this area from the air, I would highly recommend it to people who live here, as well as anyone visiting the area.

We offer several flights starting at $48 per person. Of course, we can customize a flight for you if you have specific places you want to see from above.

Q: Are other members of your family involved in the business?

A: Yes, my whole family is involved.

My wife Vicki is the general manager and runs the day-today operation. As mentioned earlier, our son Erik is a certified flight instructor and he is the manager in Brunswick. Our oldest son Justin has his ground instructor certificate and in the past has taught the private pilot ground school in Bar Harbor. Our youngest son Jeremy does aerial photography for us, so everyone is involved with Maine Coastal Flight in some way.

Q: Taking into account the state of our nation’s economy for the last few years, some people might be a little shy about expanding their business. But it is a decision you have made with your presence here in Brunswick. Your thoughts, please.

A: Expanding in Brunswick seemed to be the right opportunity when the former Brunswick Naval Air Station opened to the public.

Having the economy in a downturn is certainly a concern along with the current cost of fuel. However, we decided that even considering the economy, it would be worth the opportunity to start a school at the new Brunswick Executive Airport and the interest has been there as we had hoped.

It is a great airport and location to have a flight school.

Q: What is your contact information, i.e., regular mail and email addresses, website, telephone numbers, so people can get in touch with you?

A: Maine Coastal Flight, 2 Pegasus Ave., Hangar 6, Brunswick, ME 04011 and 112 Caruso Drive, Trenton, ME 04605.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Thank you for your interest in our business, Maine Coastal Flight. We are here to provide the flying services of the community, from scenic flights, learning to fly and getting your pilot certificate or just taking a flight with an instructor to see what it is like to fly an airplane, and to provide training for pilots in the area.

We also rent and manage aircraft for individuals or businesses, thereby helping customers with their aviation and flying needs. We can also help you give the “gift of flight” with gift certificates for any of our services. So give us a call anytime!

¦ Maine Coastal Flight
  
  2 Pegasus Ave., Hangar 6,  Brunswick, ME 04011
  112 Caruso Drive, Trenton, ME 04605

¦ Telephone: 207-664-6000

¦ Email: info@mainecoastalflight.com

¦ Websites: mainecoastalflight.com scenicflightsofacadia.com

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