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Essex County: New England's Cradle of Aviation

  • Parker River NWR Visitor Center 6 Plum Island Turnpike Newburyport, MA, 01950 United States (map)

Essex County:


New England's Cradle of Aviation

Reception: 6:30pm, Program: 7:00pm
at the Parker River NWR Visitor Center, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport

Open House at the Burgess Aviation Museum at the Plum Island Airport (24 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury): 5:15-6:15pm

The Great Marsh in Newbury was the site of New England’s first flying field where, in 1910, W. Starling Burgess built a hangar and wooden runway where the dunes meet the marsh, near the current location of Parking Lot #2 in the Parker River NWR.  The planes were brought there by boat; numerous test flights occurred and crowds visited the airfield to watch. 

On September 25, join historian Ted Russell to learn about Burgess, his colleagues, and the intrepid pilots who worked here from April to August 1910 to perfect their aircraft and their skills.  Hear about the current Plum Island Airport’s use for civil defense, pilot training, commerce and recreation.  In 1971, The Little family donated the historic Spencer-Peirce-Little farm, which includes the airport, to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England.  The airport now operates under the name Plum Island Aerodrome, Inc., which leases the land from HNE.  

Before the program, be sure to check out the Burgess Aviation Museum at the Plum Island Airport (24 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury) for a special open house from 5:15-6:15pm.

Ted Russell is a professional genealogist after retiring from a 36-year engineering career at GE Aviation.  He is co-founder and past president of Plum Island Community Airfield, a grassroots group that saved the airport from closing in 2001 and operated it until 2005.  In 2002, he led a team of local volunteers that founded the Burgess Aviation Museum at the airport and he currently serves as the museum curator.  He was previously on the board of the Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society and was a commissioner of the Essex National Heritage Commission; Ted holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Illinois.   

Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. No advance registration.

Co-sponsored by the Museum of Old Newbury, Friends of Parker River NWR, Inc., and Historic New England.

Later Event: October 6
Bartlet Mall Day