Viewpoint: Finding a safe way to fly through COVID-19  

By Ted Luebbers 

These are trying times to run a small air tour business and address client’s health concerns. People are worried and don’t want to expose themselves to COVID-19. This is probably the worst viral pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918, so it’s a legitimate concern. 

My wife, Joan, and I have stumbled upon an air tour business that has found a way to ease customer worries about this dreaded virus. 

We left our home in Florida in June and traveled to Maine for the summer to escape the sizzling heat and debilitating humidity of the Sunshine State. Maine seems to have found a way to tamp down the virus and has one of the best records in the country. We do feel safer here than back in Florida. With that said, we are still careful. 

As we entered Maine, we quarantined until we could get a negative COVID-19 test. Although it was not easy to find a place to get testedwhen we finally did, we had our negative results in two days. That was fantastic!  

We still want to be careful, but we want to find some interesting things to do that won’t compromise us or others 

Recently we decideto take a day trip to Mount Desert Island and visit Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor and some of Acadia National Park. 

As we approached the area in the car, we saw a large roadside sign at the Bar Harbor/Trenton Airport advertising rides in a glider, biplane, helicopter and a couple of other aircraft. The name of the business is Acadia Air Tours. 

It was a great day to fly – sunny with a temperature around 78 degrees, low humidity and a light breeze out of the southwest, so we pulled in. We always are on the lookout for a local general aviation flight. To find one that took us over Acadia National Park was icing on the cake. 

As we pulled up to the gate, we talked about our concerns of how we might protect ourselves from the dreaded pandemic. If things didn’t look right, we would not take any chances and we would drive on. 

We soon found out we had little to worry about. This outfit had thought of everything. 

As we entered the property, the signs reviewed the Maine COVID-19 rules about wearing a mask and social distancing, and a large bottle of hand sanitizer was provided. Masks are required on the property, in the office and in the planes. This applies to customers as well as all the folks at Acadia Air Tours. You might go as far to say, “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no flight. 

They endeavor to follow the state of Maine’s COVID-19 prevention rules to the letter. If you have been feeling ill or have a high temperature, wait 14 days before showing up. They will also take your temperature when you arrive. 

The manufacturer of their Robinson Helicopter sent out recommendations on how to sanitize their aircraft, which they follow before each flight. 

We talked to Holly Allen, senior vice president of operations, who explained the various tour packages they offered in different aircraft. We decided to take a helicopter flight over Acadia National Park. 

We then had a discussion of how they totally disinfect the aircraft after each flight. All seats and cockpit areas the customer might have touched are sprayed and wiped down with alcohol. The headsets are also cleaned off with alcohol, as well as the microphones. The microphone muffs are removed and replaced with a fresh one from a baggy where they had been soaking in alcohol. This is critical because you need to keep the microphone very close to your mouth in order to talk on the plane’s intercom. 

Again, masks are worn during the flight by the passengers as well as the pilot. 

We were lucky enough to have Mike Allen as our pilot, who is Holly’s husband. Mike grew up in this area and comes from a family of fishermen and sea captains. He knows the area well and keeps you entertained with descriptions and stories that will make you smile. 

He is the chief pilot at Acadia Air Tours with 20 years of experience flying many different airplanes and 3,000 total flight hours. During the last few years, Mike has gravitated into helicopters and admits he enjoys flying the yellow Robinson 44 helicopter more than any of the fixedwing aircraft.  

Probably the aircraft that catches your eye is the big yellow open cockpit WACO biplane sitting on the ramp. It makes you think of the barnstorming days of the 1930s, but this plane, although looking like a classic, is a more modern version of the WACO. 

Flights are generally scheduled by phone with the office, but you may be lucky enough to find a flight you like and can afford by just stopping in like we did. 

When you get up in the air over Acadia National Park and see the ocean, green hills and mountains, you get a whole new perspective of the grandeur of the park. 

 Ted Luebbers lives in Tavares, Fla., and Glenburn, Maine  

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